|Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge John Sutula|
|Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Administrative and Presiding Judge John Russo|
|By Kathy Wray Coleman, editor-in-chief, Cleveland Urban News. Com and the Cleveland Urban News.Com Blog, Ohio's Most Read Online Black Newspaper and Newspaper Blog. Tel: 216-659-0473. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Coleman is a 22-year political, legal and investigative journalist who trained for 17 years, and under six different editors, at the Call and Post Newspaper in Cleveland, Ohio|
CLEVELAND, Ohio- Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge John Sutula has accused County Prosecutor Tim McGinty of picking up old criminal cases, some of them lingering for more than two decades, and rushing them through the courts, and of simply rushing the cases through in general. And in turn, says Sutula, the county prosecutor is denying the defendants, most of them Black, due process of law. (Editor's note: A large amount of the defendants, whether innocent or guilty, end up convicted and sent to prison , data show, while McGinty brags of his alleged high turnover rate for getting convictions).
In some of the cases, including high profile rape cases such as the Ariel Castro child kidnapping and rape case, the defendants either plead guilty or are convicted in under a month McGinty boasts. And while it may appear fair on the outside, and court records show that it was likely legitimate regarding Castro, Sutula contends that it is unconstitutional in many cases.
The allegation is a strong one against a county prosecutor already under fire for protecting White Cleveland cops that gun-down unarmed Blacks in cold blood and do not spend a day in jail, practically all of them escaping prosecution by a legal system that consistently disenfranchises the Black community.
Changes in recent years in county policies and state law relative to rape kits have drawn McGinty's interest, and he is picking up rape kits that lay dormant and untested, some for decades, and running away with affiliated criminal prosecutions, due process be damned, says Sutula.
A judge on the common pleas bench since 2006, Sutula told the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ohio's largest newspaper, for a story published on July 17 that McGinty wants to "rush to judgment, but criminal defendants have a right to due process that has to be seen through to the end. "
The controversy stems from a public feud with McGinty, a former common pleas judge himself and county prosecutor since 2012, and Sutula, and Presiding and Administrative Judge John Russo, who leads the 34-member largely White general division common pleas court of Cuyahoga County.
Ohio common pleas judges hear felony cases with or without attached misdemeanor charges, and divorces and civil cases with damages sought above $15,000, among other legal issues.
A zealous and sometimes overzealous prosecutor who is up for reelection to a second four-year term next year, McGinty says that criminal cases just sit on the case dockets of Sutula and Russo, and some of the dockets of other county judges. Hence, says the county prosecutor, victims of crime are denied justice, notwithstanding his seemingly prejudicial posture that the accused are outright guilty.
Cuyahoga County, the state's largest of 88 counties, has some 59 combined townships, villages or municipalities, including the major American city of Cleveland, which is led by three-term Black mayor Frank Jackson, a Democrat and former city council president. It is also a Democratic stronghold, and is roughly 29 percent Black, U.S. Census reports reveal.
McGinty says that Russo and Sutula have at least 25 criminal cases between them
that have been pending for a year while some of the defendants in the cases, most of them Black, remain in the county jail. That is not what bothers him most, he says. He wants them rushed to trial and convicted, unless, of course, a plea deal of his choosing is reached.
But McGinty's allegation that common pleas judges are sitting on cases also raises questions about whether they are manipulating the speedy trial rights of the defendants, those that have not already been tricked into waving such rights. That, said sources, is where McGinty can come in handy as a hot head that will buck the system in a minute.
Both of the judges deny the allegation as to the claim of procrastination saying challenges to the appeals court, underlying case issues, and a host of other legal ramblings are the reason for the delay. (Editor's note: McGinty later had the Plain Dealer do a subsequent story saying he apologizes and that Sutula and Russo are great people, a ploy, says sources, because he wants their support when he seeks reelection in 2016)
What sticks, however, is the fact that a county prosecutor is indirectly accusing common pleas judges of slow dockets to keep criminal defendants that are not out on bond in jail, and the county prosecutor, who is White, is rushing cases through the courts. Due process, says Sutula, is being blatantly ignored, and the Black community is disproportionately impacted.
A study commissioned by the Cleveland NAACP found that the common pleas judges of Cuyahoga County routinely give harsher sentences to Blacks, though nothing is being done about the purportedly racially discriminatory practice.
McGinty, Sutula and Russo are all White, and all three of them are Democrats.
(www.clevelandurbannews.com) / (www.kathywraycolemanonlinenewsblog.com)