SIDNEY — Judge James Stevenson has denied the motion made in Jackson Center Police Chief Joseph Cotterman’s case in Shelby County Common Pleas Court.
Last week a motion was filed in the two cases against Cotterman, by the defense, requesting for the appointment of a special prosecutor, change of venue, an order restraining the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office from conducting any further investigation, the voluntary recusal of the judge, and a hearing on these matters.
The judge filed his decision for the case that was scheduled to go to trial Monday. The result of the motion in the second case had not been filed by Thursday afternoon.
In court Wednesday morning Cotterman’s lawyer Jeremy Tomb, of Klein, Tomb & Eberly LLP, out of Troy, and Shelby County Prosecutor Tim Sell, were given a chance to explain why the requests in the motion should or should not be granted.
“What this case comes down to is fairness for the defendant,” Tomb said. “I understand we’re concerned about an alleged victim in the prosecution of a crime. But if the court grants any of the relief that I’ve requested, that’s not going to stop happening. My client is still going to be prosecuted, there’s still going to be a trial, and if he’s done wrong, there’s still going to be ramifications for that. I think it’s important to protect the defendants rights.”
Tomb called two witnesses from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, Detective Chris Brown, and Chief Deputy Jim Frye.
Brown was the detective who investigated the cases, and he reports to Frye, who used to be the police chief of Jackson Center immediately before Cotterman took the position.
Tomb questioned them about cases, and other instances they would have had opportunities to work with Cotterman, and explained how he thought this could have lead to a predjudical effect during their investigations of the alleged crimes in these cases against Cotterman now.
The witnesses testified they didn’t hold any animosity towards Cotterman. Frye said yes when Tomb asked him if he would consider Cotterman a friend, and said he thinks the Sheriff’s Office can remain objective.
Tomb said he has no personal issues with the way the court has handled the case, but was just looking to protect the rights of Cotterman getting a fair trial.
Sell argued any times he, the judge, or other law enforcement has worked with Cotterman it has been professional.
“I work for the state, not the Sheriff’s Office. … I am not looking to go after him personally. The only times I have worked with him has been under my authority as the prosecutor,” Sell said.
He also explained his reasoning for bringing the second case to the grand jury so quickly, and while this case was going on. He explained it was a different law enforcement agency that brought it to their attention, and it was because of the victim being fragile.
He noted the precedent set by the case against former sheriff Dean Kimpel was invalid in this case because that was brought against the sheriff himself, an elected official. Cotterman was hired/appointed to his position as chief and he had a law enforcement agency above him. Since Cotterman wasn’t in a position to investigate the alleged crime himself, there was not a need for an outside agency to handle it.
The jury trial, set to begin Monday, is scheduled to last three days, but could go on as long as needed. The state has subpoenaed seven people, and the defense has subpoenaed six people. This is only for the gross sexual imposition charge, no other court dates in the rape case have been scheduled at this time.
Reach this writer at 937-538-4825.