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VICTORY: Court permanently dismisses First Amendment-retaliatory criminal charges against Huron civic-activist Stacy Hinners

Friday, July 10, 2020

Stacy Hinners's ordeal with a malicious prosecution is at long last, after 14 months, over, as the Court permanently bars charges from being refiled. But the road to accountability has just begun.

Video of Huron civic activist Stacy Hinners enduring First Amendment retaliation on May 14, 2019. Then-Mayor Brad Hartung had police drag her out of the City Council meeting and criminally charge her, minutes after she spoke during a public-comment section of the meeting about the Council's Open Meetings Act violations.

Huron, OH – Today, a Huron Municipal Court visiting judge permanently barred the City of Huron from refiling criminal charges against civic activist Stacy Hinners ever again for her May 14, 2019 speech to the City Council, in which she criticized the Council's Open Meetings Act violations and announced her and her husband's lawsuit to correct them. The judge granted Mrs. Hinners's request to convert the previous dismissal of the charges from a status where Huron could freely refile them, to a permanent dismissal, called a "dismissal with prejudice."

Today's victory followed the June 24, 2020 firing of Michael Joseph O’Shea—the supposedly “special” prosecutor from Cleveland engaged by former law director Aimee Lane to prosecute Mrs. Hinners. Also on June 24, the City's newest law director conceded that the City is giving up its efforts to prosecute Mrs. Hinners.

O'Shea firing occurred in response to a formal, May 8, 2020 written demand by Huron taxpayers Stacey Hartley and others. The demand cited various reasons the appointment of O’Shea and the Hinners prosecution were illegal. The letter also protested the fact that O’Shea failed to take the oath to “support the Constitution of the United States” that Ohio law mandates.

Subodh Chandra and Brian Bardwell of Chandra Law represented Mrs. Hinners in defending the First Amendment–retaliatory criminal prosecution against her. On the morning that O'Shea was going to have to defend in a hearing his selective prosecution of Hinners for her speech, O'Shea dismissed the charges "without prejudice," complaining that a number of his "witnesses" themselves were under criminal investigation by the Ohio attorney general for civil-rights violations.

But O'Shea was free to refile the charges at any time—and they loomed over Mrs. Hinners's head for nine months more, casting a chill on her ability to speak out on Huron civic affairs, as she had frequently done before.

Chandra and Bardwell represent Mrs. Hinners and her husband Jason Hinners in their sweeping civil-rights lawsuit against O’Shea, the City, and other current and former Huron officials including former Mayor Brad Hartung and Councilman Glen Ginesi. And they represent the taxpayer civic activists who succeeded in their demand that O'Shea be fired.

For a more comprehensive summary of what the Hinnerses allege and have endured in retaliation for their activism holding Huron accountable to good-government standards, click here.

Subodh Chandra, the Hinnerses' lead counsel, said, "For 14 months, Huron officials and their handpicked and improperly hired prosecutor tormented Stacy Hinners and her family with these bogus, First Amendment-retaliatory charges. For now, that nightmare is, at long last, over. Those responsible for this travesty of unconstitutional decisionmaking will be now held accountable."

Stacy Hinners added, "I am so grateful to the Huron taxpayers who stepped forward to raise their concerns. These are people with jobs and businesses; they took a risk to do the right thing. But that’s the best of Huron—neighbors coming together to do what’s right, even when it isn’t easy."

The Ohio attorney general's criminal investigation remains pending.

Related Practice Areas
First AmendmentGovernment Ethics, Misconduct, Fraud, & AbuseOhio Public Records Act, Open Meetings Act, FOIA, & Sunshine LawsMalicious Prosecution, Abuse of Process, and False ArrestTaxpayer Lawsuits in Ohio

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