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Judge appoints Ohio attorney general as special prosecutor to investigate Huron officials' potential crimes against activists Stacy and Jason Hinners

Friday, September 13, 2019

Chandra Law had requested that Erie County prosecutor "appoint an independent prosecutor who can investigate the conduct of Mayor Hartung and bring charges against him for any applicable offenses, which may include interference with civil rights..."

Sandusky, OH — Court documents reveal that on August 28, 2019, Judge Tygh Tone of the Erie County Court of Common Pleas appointed Ohio attorney general David Yost as special prosecutor to investigate certain former and current Huron officials for alleged crimes against activists Stacy and Jason Hinners. The appointment follows the Hinnerses' attorney Subodh Chandra's request for the appointment of a special prosecutor. The request detailing the extensive criminal allegations can be found here. Allegations include interference with civil rights, intimidation, retaliation, and making false police reports.

Stacy Hinners faces charges in the Huron Municipal Court that she "disturbed" the May 14 Huron City Council meeting by facing the audience when she announced she and her husband Jason Hinners had filed suit to nullify secret payments the council approved for city manager Andy White, in an illegal closed-door meeting hidden from the public. After video surfaced proving that Ms. Hinners never disturbed the meeting—and after Chandra accordingly asked Law Director Aimee Lane to dismiss the charge, Huron police piled on with a charge of "resisting lawful arrest," even though officers had no warrant as required by the Fourth Amendment, personally observed no offense, and Mrs. Hinners was never read her rights,. The "special" prosecutor handpicked by Lane, Michael J. O'Shea, promised Chandra that he would dismiss that charge, but has failed to do so despite repeated requests. And he has tripled down on the First Amendment retaliation by tacking on a charge of "obstructing official business."

Ms. Hinners has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and asked the Huron Municipal Court to dismiss them as unconstitutional.

Huron Mayor Brad Hartung, who ordered police to remove Ms. Hinners from the meeting, did so in violation of Mrs. Hinners’s First Amendment rights—criminally so, alleges the request for investigation. Other city officials are alleged to have acted in concert with Hartung, including City Manager Andrew White, Law Director Aimee Lane, police officers John W. Orzech and Kevin Koehler—and Councilmember Glen Ginesi for targeting Jason Hinners in retaliation for his civic activities as well. A sworn affidavit from parish priest Father Jeffrey McBeth reports that Councilman Ginesi contacted Father McBeth and expressed consternation over Mr. Hinners being ordained as a deacon because of Mr. Hinners’s work in exposing the council's misdeeds, and asked Father McBeth to intervene.

“We have handled many civil-rights violations, but rarely have we seen a more breathtaking abuse of power than officials unrelentingly trying to prosecute a civic activist for speaking truth to power at a city-council meeting. We look forward to working with Attorney General Yost's office to bring those who violated the Hinnerses' rights to justice,” Subodh Chandra said.

For more information on this case, and for links to videos of Hinners's arrest, please click here.

Related Practice Areas
First AmendmentGovernment Ethics, Misconduct, Fraud, & AbuseMalicious Prosecution, Abuse of Process, and False Arrest

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