A national set of Prosecution Standards provide very clear guidance on the types of conflicts of interest that would require a prosecutor to leave an investigation. One specific conflict involves family members who are also lawyers involved in a case. According to the standards, a “prosecutor should excuse himself or herself from the investigation and prosecution of any person who is represented by a lawyer related to the prosecutor as a parent, child, sibling, spouse, or domestic partner, or who has a significant financial relationship with the prosecutor.”
In the case of John Crawford III, the 21-year old man recently shot and killed by police at a Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine faces exactly this type of conflict of interest. And a few others.
The problem starts with Mike DeWine’s daughter, Alice K. DeWine, who is an Assistant Prosecutor with the Greene County Prosecutor’s office. Alice works for the office’s Criminal Division which, according to their website, “provides 24 hour a day legal assistance and advice to all Greene County law enforcement agencies” – including officers in Beavercreek.
The Greene County prosecutors office was quick to identify potential conflicts of interest they might have in this high-profile case, so they asked for outside help. In turn Ohio AG Mike DeWine appointed Mark Piepmeier, an attorney from the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s office, as special prosecutor in the case. Interestingly, Piepmeier made a campaign donation to DeWine on July 31st, less than a month before he received the appointment. And he had previously donated to the campaign of Mike’s son Pat, a judge in Ohio’s 1st District Court of Appeals.
Despite appointing a special prosecutor to the case, DeWine continues to remain directly involved, even though he promised the prosecutor would have “total independence.” This is especially true when it comes to releasing surveillance video of the incident. Just this week DeWine told the Dayton Daily News that he decided he has “every right not to release” the video after “consulting all the lawyers in [his] office.”
A grand jury was originally scheduled to review the case on September 3rd, but it appears the new special prosecutor is on vacation until September 12th. In the meantime, DeWine’s office appears to be handling all requests from the press and from the Crawford family who, according to a letter obtained by Plunderbund, have specifically asked DeWine to “make a formal request to the United States Department of Justice … to being its own investigation.”
Mike DeWine’s ties to Greene county are long and deep. He started his career in the Greene County Prosecutor’s Office in the late 1970’s. His long time friend Bill Schenk later took over the prosecutor’s job, and they both later worked together in private practice in Greene County. When DeWine was elected U.S. Senator from Ohio, Bill’s wife managed DeWine’s Ohio senate office and DeWine nominated Schenk for job at the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Schenk has been part of the AG’s team since Mike was elected in 2010 and DeWine has kept him on despite DUIs and his potential involvement in a sexual harassment scandal.
A case like this requires unbiased guidance from someone without a personal interest or personal connections to any of the involved parties. It’s clear Mike DeWine is NOT that person.
If we really want to know the truth, then we need Mike DeWine out of the picture.
If we really want Mr. Crawford and the officers involved in the shooting to be treated fairly, and we really want the facts of the case to be presented openly and honestly, then we need Mike DeWine to immediately recuse himself and his office from the investigation.
We’ll leave you with this campaign ad from 2010 featuring Alice DeWine…