Ohio Prosecutor Claims Judge Made an Error in Clearing Cleveland Officer


The Ohio prosecutor who brought charges against a Cleveland police officer said that the judge who cleared the officer made serious errors in his decision, errors that might “endanger the public.”

Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty insisted in court documents that Judge John O’Donnell was wrong with his acquittal in the trial of officer Michael Brelo on voluntary manslaughter.

Officer Brelo was accused in the May 23, 2012, deaths of Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell. But according to McGinty, Judge O’Donnell considered the wrong charge: the lesser charge of felonious assault, instead of, in the prosecutor’s opinion, the more proper charge of voluntary manslaughter or aggravated assault.

Brelo and several other officers fired well over 100 shots at the couple as they sat in their stopped car after leading police on a 22-mile high-speed chase. Brelo himself fired 49 shots, but the indictment was filed over the final 15 shots he fired at close range directly into the couple’s windshield.

The situation had escalated when officers from 60 different cruisers mistook the first few officer’s gunfire as being fired by Williams and Russell.

“As it stands, the trial court’s verdict will endanger the public, allow for one of multiple actors to escape culpability and lead to more unnecessary deaths by police-created crossfire situations,” McGinty said in his appeals filing.

“This court must return the case with the corrections of law to the trial court with instructions to deliberate and reach a verdict with the correct application of the law and correct determination of lesser offense of voluntary manslaughter– attempted voluntary manslaughter or aggravated assault,” McGinty said to the appeals court.

McGinty said that the U.S. Constitution does not give officers “cover” for placing themselves and other officers in danger and acting in a manner “inconsistent with reason, inconsistent with training, and inconsistent with established federal law.”

The prosecutor finished saying, “the law as stated in the verdict places no restraint on the tactics civilian police officers are to use, finding the use of any tactics to be justifiable so long as the officer perceives a subjective fear of his or her life.”

This isn’t the first time that McGinty has spoken out on the verdict. last week, McGinty said that he was “profoundly disappointed” in the not guilty verdict delivered by Judge O’Donnell.

“The trial forced us to examine how and why so many errors and flawed assumptions could have led to the deaths of two unarmed people — a totally innocent, trapped and essentially kidnapped mentally ill passenger and a panicked and disturbed petty criminal – after a chase of more than 20 minutes and 20 miles that involved more than 100 officers and was led by a group of supervisors who ignored their training and Division of Police rules,” McGinty said.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston, or email the author at igcolonel@hotmail.com.


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