CINCINNATI (AP) — A sharply critical prosecutor on Thursday linked a decision by an indicted juvenile court judge facing trial next week to two recent violent deaths.
Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters said his office wanted teenager Tywaune Thomas incarcerated in a juvenile center last year on a heroin trafficking charge but Judge Tracie Hunter decided against that and instead ordered other conditions including outpatient drug treatment and electronic monitoring. Deters said prosecutors wanted Thomas held in a secure facility because he had a lengthy criminal record and a history of violating such conditions.
Thomas last month killed another man and then was wounded and died at age 18, Deters said. Thomas and the other man might be alive today if Hunter had had Thomas incarcerated, Deters said.
"This is the unfortunate sort of scenario that we envisioned when we wanted Judge Hunter to commit Thomas to DYS (Department of Youth Services)," Deters said. "He clearly needed the structured setting of DYS if he were to have any chance of changing his life for the better."
Deters added: "Judge Hunter has consistently said that she is doing this 'for the children.' Well, now we have a dead one."
Hunter's attorney, Clyde Bennett II, called Deters' statements "nonsensical."
"There is no legal nexus between the death of a young man and Judge Hunter's actions," Bennett said.
Hunter's trial is scheduled to begin Monday in Hamilton County on felony counts of tampering with evidence, forgery and theft in office.
Prosecutors' spokeswoman Julie Wilson said Deters' statements came as his office dropped an appeal of Hunter's ruling in light of Thomas' death. A hearing had been scheduled Monday before a state appeals court. Thomas died Aug. 20.
"The timing is the timing," Wilson said. "We don't have any control of when something like this would occur."
Hunter, a Democrat who took the bench after a lengthy legal fight over disputed election results, has said she is being targeted for political reasons.
The chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party ripped Deters, a Republican, in a letter to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
"The fact that the county prosecutor would issue a statement scandalously attacking the judge is abuse of the prosecutor's office and can only be viewed as an effort to try Judge Hunter in the press and poison the jury pool," Tim Burke wrote.
Bennett has said Hunter won't be able to get a fair trial in Hamilton County because of pretrial publicity. Common Pleas Judge Norbert A. Nadel has said he plans to try to seat an impartial jury.
The Ohio Supreme Court in January disqualified Hunter from acting as a judge after an indictment said that she backdated court records and misused a county credit card, among other allegations.
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