SPRINGFIELD — A former assistant prosecutor said misconduct charges against Clark County Common Pleas Judge Douglas Rastatter were overblown, but he and others said the judge and the two attorneys who filed the complaint can move past the controversy.
“I believe the charges were exaggerated from their inception, and I think that the finders of fact confirmed this,” former Clark County assistant prosecutor Darnell Carter said Wednesday.
His comments came a day after a panel of the Board of Commission on Grievances and Discipline of the Ohio Supreme Court dismissed a complaint against Rastatter in which he was accused of wrongdoing in six cases.
The cases are ones he presided over since taking the bench in January 2005.
The Ohio State Bar Association accused Rastatter of violating several rules that govern judges, including failing to follow the law, failing to uphold the integrity of the judiciary and engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.
The complaint was brought to the association by Richard Mayhall and John R. Butz, who were held in contempt of court and fined $2,000 by Rastatter after he accused the two of manipulating the court to get him off the bench in a capital murder trial in 2006.
Both strongly disagreed with Carter.
“From my standpoint, they were not exaggerated in any way,” Butz said.“The charges stemmed from what happened in the (Jason) Dean (murder) case and also stemmed from cases where Judge Rastatter appeared not to follow mandates by the court of appeals.”
Carter, who is friends with Rastatter, Butz and Mayhall, said the strong personalities of the three men also played a role.
“When certain personalities are involved, emotions take control of a lot of things,” Carter said.
Carter, Mayhall, Butz and area officials said the three men can move forward from the feud.
“You have to have respect for your fellow attorneys and proceed with representing your clients to the best of your ability,” Carter said.
Jerry Strozdas, who lost to Rastatter in November 2004 for the judgeship, said it shouldn’t be difficult for the men to put the issue behind them.
“Experienced attorneys are used to dealing with cases so that when they are over, they’re over. I would expect people to deal with it,” Strozdas, Springfield’s city law director, said.
Clark County Common Pleas Court Judge Richard O’Neill said he was pleased with the result of the hearing Tuesday.
“I think Judge Rastatter is maturing into a good judge, and he’s good for the community,” O’Neill said. “While charges were pending, he had to avoid cases (involving Mayhall and Butz). Now you just put this behind you and handle cases just as you would any other case and do the job as best you can.”
Butz, however, wondered if Rastatter, who was back on the bench Wednesday, would reassign cases involving him or Mayhall.
“He may assign our cases to another judge, or we’ll work it out some other way,” Butz said. “But I’m sure it’ll all take care of itself. We’re all just trying to represent our clients.”