Friday, September 12, 2008

Source: "There was more going on with these five indicted Sheriff's deputies than the public knew"

Now that the criminal cases involving the death of Mark McCullough have come to an end, I need to share part of a conversation I had a few weeks ago with a source near the investigation.

Many of us here in town .. me certainly included .. took shots at the system for the perceived special treatment that five Summit County Sheriff's Deputies received after being investigated and then indicted in a jailhouse death.

McCullough was beaten, maced, tazed, and eventually died while handcuffed inside the jail cell. The deputies said that McCullough had mental issues and was in an absolute rage that night. McCullough's family, and a grand jury, felt the deputies were out of line.

The deputies' indictments were read late in the week, but yet these men were allowed to stay free for the weekend before turning themselves in.

One of the deputies, Stephen Krendick, even faced murder charges, and yet was walking free.

Krendick and the others were booked not in Summit County where they worked, but in Medina County, ... but I think we all understood the reasoning behind that. Nevertheless, they were booked and released the same day.

They then appeared for the initial court arraignment in street clothes and received personal recognisance bonds. And with that, they were on their way back home.

Who gets treatment like that when indicted for killing someone?

It shocked most of us who cover the courts each day.

NO ONE charged with murder ever gets to show up in anything but an orange jump suit and they ALWAYS have to put up some money to get out on bail, and that's if the judge agrees to it. Sometimes it's in the millions of dollars .. and in really, really serious crimes, NO BOND.

For example, like Krendick, Doug Prade was also a police officer charged with murder .. and like Krendick, Prade had months to run and yet stayed to turn himself in when the charges came down.

I'm not saying that the two cases are equal. Still, at the initial arraignment stage of a cop charged with murder, Prade got cuffs, an orange jump suit, and a $5 million bond that he couldn't meet while Krendick got to wear street clothes and was back home in time for lunch.

Can you see why it looked like preferential treatment?

Krendick took his chances with a bench trial -- instead of a jury -- and the judge sided with Krendick on all counts. Now, that same judge accepted a dismissal of charges against the remainder of the deputies bringing the case to a close.

I've blogged several times and also spoken at length on NewsNight Akron that even if these deputies weren't receiving special treatment, there was still an appearance of favoritism and that stinks.

Here's what I didn't know until recently:

The deputies DID spend a night in jail .. and in jumpsuits .. and in a real jail cell in Medina .. before coming back for the arraignment. They were segregated as you can imagine, but did at least have that same inmate experience.

The decision for them to be arraigned in street clothes wasn't entirely theirs. County brass felt that putting these deputies in shackles and jump suits in front of their Summit County peers would be damaging should they later be acquitted and return to the job. Guess what? Now that's exactly what's going to happen.

As for not making the deputies post bond, my source tells me that that was the judge's decision .. and not preferential treatment from the prosecutor. The deputies' families had secured funds they thought would be needed for bail and were prepared that morning to take second mortgages if need be. They knew the judge could set bond in the millions under the circumstances.

Instead, the judge reportedly remarked that he felt comfortable that the deputies wouldn't flee -- which is what bond is supposed to ensure -- because they'd had an entire year to get out of town .. and even a weekend to run after being indicted .. and yet each one showed up to face the music.

That was the most important part to the way this all played out, my source says.

The deputies' actions -- in this case the accused deputies -- was indicative of men who truly felt they didn't cross the line. It pointed more to men who had done what they felt they needed to do under extraordinary circumstances that bloody night at the jail.

The community and the media can second-guess and analyze what these deputies did to McCullough, but in the minds of the deputies who were there that night, they were willing to stand together.

Going forward

Inside the Sheriff's brain trust, this case continues to be dissected in hopes of preventing this from ever happening again. That includes making sure supervisors are involved sooner than later when an inmate like McCullough gets out of hand. It also includes following procedures -- including using a hand-held video camera -- when teams of deputies are forced to enter a cell with an extreme case like this one.

Sheriff Alexander is promising a citizens advisory committee to making the jail safer for inmates and deputies alike. I haven't had a chance to talk with him about this case, but I'd like to ask him about adding cameras all over the jail and what kind of funds would be needed to make that happen.

I don't know that many in the community -- me included -- will ever forget the brutality of this case or the way it played out (or didn't) in court.

Still ... as a journalist, it's always a quest to find out the truth, and I've learned there was more going on with these five deputies than the public was aware.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I suspect there was a lot going on that we will never know. However, the perceptions will last a long, long time.