Investigation into former Washington County Prosecutor Rings continues
MARIETTA — The investigation is ongoing on the complaint filed by the Washington County Bar Association regarding the actions of former Washington County Prosecutor Kevin Rings, even after his conviction and resignation.
The bar association voted at its April 29, 2019, meeting to authorize the organization’s officers to file a disciplinary complaint on their behalf.
“The Washington County Bar Association condemns the actions of Kevin Rings as disclosed at the trial for State of Ohio, Plaintiff v. Kevin Rings, Defendant and supports a thorough investigation by the Supreme Court of Ohio’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel of those actions and any other actions by Kevin Rings of a similar nature that may come to light during such investigation,” said Bar Association President Cameron Fouss in a public statement.
Rings was sentenced to 60 days in the Monroe County Jail after being found guilty on April 12, 2019, of coercion, a misdemeanor. He was also charged with misdemeanor sexual imposition, but was found not guilty.
The Marietta attorney was charged with coercing Amy Davis, 34, of Belpre, a defendant in a drug case and a victim in a kidnapping and assault case, to have sexual contact with him. He also was accused of kissing and inappropriately touching Davis in his office on July 6, 2017.
After his conviction, a civil case was filed by Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks and more than 20 area attorneys, asking Rings be removed from office. Rings resigned on May 15, 2019.
He voluntarily registered with the Ohio Supreme Court on Sept. 1, 2019, as inactive, which means until he requests and is granted reinstatement of active status, he will not be able to practice law in Ohio.
The Supreme Court shows Rings has no disciplinary history or administrative sanctions and suspensions against him.
If he would be granted reinstatement by the Ohio Supreme Court’s Office of Attorney Services, he would be able to practice law again.
Due to confidentiality, Joseph Caliguiri of the Ohio Office of Disciplinary Counsel said he could not confirm nor deny the existence of complaints until the disciplinary counsel’s investigation was finished.
“If a formal complaint was filed against an attorney, it would be on the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct’s website,” he explained. “(The bar association) could also have filed a grievance, which is a complaint against a lawyer.”
As of Friday, no formal complaints against Rings were listed with the counsel. Formal complaints are made by the disciplinary counsel after an investigation is complete and credible evidence is found. Until the formal complaint is made, records on the investigation are not made public.
“There’s some steps they go through as far as stuff that’s private and stuff that’s public,” Fouss said. “Other people could have filed grievances as well. You won’t know until the investigation is done.”
According to the Ohio Supreme Court, once a complaint is filed with a local bar association’s certified grievance committee or office of disciplinary action, an investigation will begin. If probable cause is found through the investigation, a formal complaint is filed with the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct. If probable cause is not found, the complaint is dismissed.
If the board finds the investigation has concluded, the complaint will be certified and prosecuted. If probable cause is found and the complaint is certified, it then becomes public record.
The board of professional conduct will appoint a three member hearing panel to conduct a formal disciplinary hearing. If evidence shows guilt, the panel will send their findings and discipline recommendation to the full board of professional conduct.
If the full board decides guilt has been proven, findings and recommendations for discipline will be sent to the Ohio Supreme Court. The Supreme Court justices will then review and impose the discipline they think is appropriate.
There are four types of discipline they can choose from: public reprimand; suspension for six months to two years; indefinite suspension for at least two years; or disbarment, which is a loss of license for life with no chance of re-admittance to the Ohio Bar Association.
The case against Rings was modeled after the complaint filed in December by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost against Sandusky County Prosecutor Tim Braun. The complaint asked Braun be suspended and removed due to misconduct toward his female employees.
“Braun’s pattern of misconduct towards his female subordinates, his criminal investigation into missing personnel files, his seizure of his female subordinates’ private cell phone records, and his conviction of Negligent Assault on his female subordinate together demonstrate that he committed gross neglect of duty, gross immorality, misfeasance, malfeasance, and/or nonfeasance and is therefore guilty of misconduct in office and should be removed from office,” the complaint notes.
Braun pleaded guilty and was convicted of one count of negligent assault by improper physical contact with his employees. He now will decide whether to be heard before a judge or take it to a jury trial as Rings did.
Michele Newbanks can be reached at email@example.com.