A judge instructed prosecutors to provide, by noon today, text messages gathered during the undercover investigation of a Springboro teacher that culminated in a raid of her home in May 2017.
Warren County Common Pleas Court Judge Donald Oda gave prosecutors until then to produce text messages gathered by the lead detective in the case. The messages were exchanged between the detective and a boy who assisted in the investigation, and they were used to convince Oda to approve a search warrant.
“They have not been produced thus far,” said defense lawyer Andrea Ostrowski just shy of a year after the indictment of that teacher, Amy Panzeca.
Panzeca’s juvenile son has already been convicted of selling LSD to other Springboro boys using bitcoin that she is alleged to have helped him obtain. That case is on appeal.
The judge in Panzeca’s son’s case, Joe Kirby, said the Panzeca home in Settlers Walk planned community was known as the community’s “party house.”
Panzeca, 49, is charged with permitting drug abuse, endangering children and contributing to the unruliness of children.
A veteran teacher, she was moved to unpaid leave in May. Another teacher has been assigned the fifth-grade class she would have taught.
“She was on paid leave with the district up until the end of the 2017-2018 school year, however, with the conclusion of the 2017-2018 school year, Ms. Panzeca is now on unpaid leave,” Scott Marshall, the district’s communications coordinator, said in an email.
“At the start of the 2017-2018 school year, a long-term substitute teacher was placed in Ms. Panzeca’s former classroom for about two weeks, at which time a full-time teacher was hired, (and that teacher) remained as the teacher for the entire 2017-2018 school year.”
On Wednesday, the detective and one of the Springboro officers involved in traffic stops made in connection with the case testified again about cruiser cam video and audio from the investigation that was destroyed, according to the city’s record-retention policy.
They also were asked about the handling of a case against a boy who assisted in the investigation and was not charged, although he was found in possession of illegal drugs.
The Warren County Drug Task Force detective, whose identity and picture are being withheld at the judge’s request, said he texted with the male informant, prompting Ostrowski to urge Oda to direct authorities to turn over the messages.
The detective acknowledged he used information from the informant in an affidavit used to convince Oda to allow police to raid and search Panzeca’s home.
Asked why he didn’t get a copy of the cruiser cam media before it was destroyed, he said, “I didn’t need it.”
Under questioning by Assistant County Prosecutor Derek Faulkner, the detective said no specific promises were made to the boy who assisted the investigation and indicated the informant could be brought to testify.
“Which is it?” Ostrowski asked on cross-examination, indicating the detective told her specific promises were made.
Oda himself questioned the detective on the differences between confidential informants and others who assist their investigations.
Springboro Police Chief Jeff Kruithoff and an evidence custodian were subpoenaed by Ostrowski did but did not have to testify. Prosecutors maintain they have complied with laws governing disclosure of evidence.
Ostrowski wants Oda to find that the investigation was unlawful in part due to problems with information in the search warrant affidavit.
The next meeting scheduled in the case is a status conference on Aug. 29.
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