Saturday, October 22, 2011

“Forty-eight Hours in Portsmouth"

“Forty-eight Hours in Portsmouth”
By: Jim Silvania

          To most, if not all, homicide investigators the first 48 hours of any homicide investigation is the most crucial or critical time period of that investigation.  That’s the reason that CBS Television named its reality crime show,“48 Hours” and A&E has “The First 48”.  But, as the majority of Ohioans know, Portsmouth is a place where time stands still.
          On March 19th of this year the Portsmouth Fire Department responded to a fire at an Edendale Rd. address and as fireman do, they put out the fire.  It was not until 72 hours later that authorities received a call from one of the persons of interest that there was a body inside the burnt out rubble. Apparently to be a Portsmouth Fireman, you don’t have to pass a vision test.
          After the belated discovery of the deceased victim the investigation began, or sort of.  Portsmouth is the only city in Ohio where the fire department conducts homicide investigations if they are fire related. Firemen, in most cases, are very good at what they do…put out fires. It is law enforcement’s job to investigate homicides, just not in Portsmouth.
The Portsmouth Fire Department was wise enough to call in an investigator from the State Fire Marshall’s office but he again is not a homicide investigator.  He is a cause & origin expert who ruled the fire incendiary with probable cause to believe it’s victim’s death was the result of a homicide.    
          Crime scene experts where then called in to gather evidence and DNA was submitted to BCI&I for analysis and the victim’s body was shipped off to Montgomery County for an autopsy.
          One of the campaign ploys forwarded by now Attorney General Mike DeWine was that DNA results would no longer take BCI&I months to be analyzed and returned to local law enforcement.  DeWine was elected Attorney General, but…
          3048 hours after the body’s discovery and DNA Collection, BCI&I released their DNA results and the Scioto county corner the death certificate stating that the victim was alive when the fire was started.
          Now, some 5,232 hours after the body’s discovery the homicide investigation appears to be going nowhere. During this time period the Portsmouth Fire & Police Department as well as the Scioto County Sheriff’s Department were offered “free” technical expert assistance into the death of Jason Moore but those offers all fell upon deaf ears.
          Anyone who watches any detective show on television knows that it is the homicide detective who speaks for the dead, no matter who they are, but in this case the only words coming from Jason Moore are “If you want to commit a homicide in Ohio just bring the body to Portsmouth and light a match”.
          The Obama Administration has just rewarded $100,000 of taxpayer’s monies, my money, to Scioto County to help curb the problems associated with drug abuse.  This comes a little late for Jason Moore. 
          You can throw all the money in the world into Scioto County but it’s not until law enforcement in that county enters the 21st century will any progress be made.

Friday, October 14, 2011

OH Dept of Public Safety Lawyer Faces Public Reprimand

Lawyer faces public reprimand

  • Joshua Engel pleaded guilty last October to three misdemeanors in the email case.

The Columbus Dispatch Thursday October 13, 2011 7:52 AM

Joshua Engel, former top lawyer for the Ohio Department of Public Safety, should get a public reprimand for illegally intercepting all agency emails for several months, a state panel has recommended.

The Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline rejected the court disciplinary counsel’s push for a six-month suspended sentence of Engel’s law license. Instead, the panel said Tuesday that the Harvard-educated lawyer lacked a “dishonest or selfish motive” in intercepting emails between the Ohio inspector general or The Dispatch and anyone in the agency.

Although he secretly obtained confidential material, including inspector-general probes and federal criminal and grand-jury investigations, no one was harmed by the electronic “bug” but Engel himself, the commissioners determined. The panel cited an Engel character witness who said his ethics “are above reproach” and that he is “an extraordinarily caring and competent attorney.”

Commissioners acknowledged he should have had the email filter removed when he first got confidential material, but they said ongoing battles within and without the agency distracted him.
“The panel believes the stress of the ‘turf war’ undoubtedly obscured his focus. We believe it was not his knowing intent to ‘trap’ confidential information.”

And the board also noted, “His personal suffering, beginning with job-related stress in 2008, and as exacerbated by both criminal and disciplinary proceedings, have resulted in severe depression and suicidal thoughts. We note that he voluntarily sought psychiatric care and psychological counseling before being terminated from his position at DPS in late 2010.”

The board pointed out that former Gov. Bob Taft also was given a public reprimand in 2006 after he was found guilty of four misdemeanor ethics charges.

Last October, Engel was fined $750 and given a 30-day suspended jail sentence for each of three misdemeanors.
A technologies manager who obeyed Engel’s request to install the email filter was suspended but returned to work after receiving a written reprimand. Another department lawyer resigned for collaborating with Engel.

Engel’s attorney, Larry James of Columbus, told the panel, “The mistake made by (Engel) could have happened to anyone” as he tried to pursue the source of leaks from the department.
The recommendation now goes to the Supreme Court for final action.