|Cleveland Ward 2|
Councilman Zack Reed
CLEVELAND, Ohio- Cleveland Ward 2 Councilman Zack Reed was convicted of DUI this afternoon by an eight-member majority White Cleveland Municipal Court jury before retired, visiting former Willoughby, Oh. judge Larry Allen, whom Republican Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor personally handpicked out of Lake County to hear the case after the original judge, Cleveland Judge Pinkey Carr, refused it.
Carr, who is a Black Democrat like Reed and was an assistant county prosecutor and a lead attorney for the prosecution in the 2011 capital murder trial of since convicted serial killer Anthony Sowell, said that Reed had contributed to her successful 2011 campaign for election to judge, and that that should be grounds for her recusal or withdrawal. None of the other 11 regular judges of the Cleveland Municipal Court would take the case either, all complaining, through Administrative and Presiding Judge Ron Adrine, also Black, that Cleveland City Council determines the court budget.
But what was the real issue since case law or applicable court rulings on affidavits of prejudice to assess whether an Ohio trial court judge should be disqualified from a case do not support recusal or refusal to hear the traffic-related DUI case on the excuse of campaign contributions, something rampant among Ohio judges, or because of a budgetary conflict relative to the city's judiciary budget between the judges and city council.
The likable but controversial Reed will be sentenced on September 5, five days before the September non-partisan primary election for Cleveland City Council, and he is on the ballot, among others. He faces up to 6 months in jail and a $350 fine, but could get house arrest as so many of his similarly situated White counterparts get, data show.
Though he says he is not guilty and the jury lost its way, he did accept some responsibility for the outcome of the guilty verdict, one issued by a jury composed of four men and four women, and only three of them Black.
"I do have a problem and I am going to do everything I can to show the judge that I am getting help," said Reed in an interview after the verdict with Cleveland Urban News.Com, Ohio's most read online Black newspaper.
Reed, 51, did not take the stand in his own defense but his lawyers, Jeffrey Saffold and Kevin Spellacy, told the jury that the city lawmaker had only two beers at a downtown Cleveland night club the night he was arrested earlier this year on March 5, and that Cleveland police were gunning for their outspoken client.
Cleveland Chief Prosecutor Victor Perez put police on the stand as witnesses who testified that the councilman wreaked of alcohol and failed a sobriety test.
But the bartender where Reed was that night testified that Reed had only a beer or two, and a jailer, who also testified for the defense, said she smelled no alcohol on Reed at all when he arrived for booking.
Reed refused a breathalyzer, police said.
State Rep. Bill Patmon (D-10), a Cleveland Democrat and former Ward 8 councilman, said that he supports Reed and his candidacy for reelection, and that he will be at the sentencing to urge leniency by the judge.
|Ohio state Rep.|
Bill Patmon (D-10)
"Zack has a disease and if it were anything else we would be reaching out to him," said Patmon. "I suggest that we should double our efforts in trying to help him."
Patmon added that some people are still driving around with five or more DUI's and that Judge Allen, who came to Cleveland for a couple of days from his retirement home in Lake County, should not have been assigned to the case by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor as a visiting judge in lieu of a judge out of Cuyahoga County.
Reed, 51, debonair, Black, and single, would, the day of the incident , and at other times, go to downtown nightclubs after Monday evening city council meetings. His conviction today is his third DUI in eight years. He was ticketed, Cleveland police said during trial testimony, for allegedly running a red light and making an improper turn, citations in addition to the DUI that he also pleaded not guilty too.
Community activists agree with Patmon that a major issue of concern is the handpicking of retired, out-of Cuyahoga County judges to come into Cleveland against the Black community and Black elected officials, and without any reckoning of the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, or any other legal authorities that might come into play.
Activists want sitting judges on Ohio trial court civil and criminal cases that are at all times selected at random in multi-judge courts like the majority Black Cleveland Municipal Court, and the largely White 34-member Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, a general division court led by Administrative and Presiding Judge Nancy Fuerst. (Editor's Note: There are 13 judges on the Cleveland Municipal Court, including Housing Court Judge Ray Pianca, who actually runs a separate housing court).
"This out-of-the county retired visiting White, male judge name Judge Larry Allen, who could, with all due respect, have age- related case assessment problems, was handpicked out of Lake County and not Cuyahoga County for a reason and it could very well be to make sure that this Black male Cleveland city lawmaker is railroaded into a six months prison sentence for political reasons, and as community activists we are tired of the impropriety that plagues Ohio's legal system to the detriment of women, poor people, Black men in power, and the Black community in general" said Community Activist Kathy Wray Coleman, who leads the grassroots group Imperial Women. "We again call on Ohio state legislators, Black leaders, and the Cleveland NAACP to join us in supporting House Bill 216 and urging the Ohio General Assembly in adopting it into state law."
A bill sponsored by Patmon (D-10) at the urging of the activist group Imperial Women, HB 216, still in committee though introduced over two years ago, would require that all Ohio trial court judges in multi-judge courts are at all times assigned and reassigned to both civil and criminal cases at random.
Community activists say that a random draw judicial case assignment bill might serve to help minimize public corruption in the judicial arena by judges in Ohio trial courts.
Also, O'Connor may have violated the law in assigning former , retired judge Larry Allen of Willoughby to the case since state law requires that visiting Ohio trial court judges come from the territory of the Cleveland Municipal Court and Lake County, which includes Willoughby, is not within that territory. Willoughby is a 94 percent White middle class suburb about 17 miles east of Cleveland, and the Cleveland Municipal Court, at the Cuyahoga County Justice Center like the common pleas court, is in the heart of downtown Cleveland.
The predominantly Black major metropolitan city of Cleveland has a population roughly of 400,000 and is a city of Cuyahoga County, Ohio's largest of 88 counties statewide.
One of nine Black council persons on the 19- seat Cleveland City Council, Reed represents parts of the impoverished predominantly Black Mount Pleasant and Kinsman neighborhoods on Cleveland's largely Black east side. He has been on city council about a decade and a quarter.
Next year, however, city council will be reduced to 17 seats pursuant to the November election this year and a voter adopted charter amendment pushed by Reed's foe, city council president Martin Sweeney, a west side White councilman whom Reed supporters say is out to destroy him.