November 27, 2014

Elyria
Snow
28°F
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Off the Beat 07/14/07

Sex tape simply stashed
A sex videotape that attorneys appealing a sexual harassment lawsuit couldn’t find turned out to be exactly where the judge who heard the original case said it should be — in his office.
Attorneys appealing the loss by three former female employees at Spitzer Auto World in a jury trial last year filed 113 pages of documents Thursday in their efforts to find the lost videotape, which featured one of their clients and her ex-husband engaged in sexual relations.
But Tim Lubbe, staff attorney for county Common Pleas Judge Edward Zaleski, said he’s had the tape all along because the judge ordered the tape sealed years ago.
Zaleski said attorneys representing Kristina Conti, Emily Dutton and Shawna Smith never contacted his office.
“They never asked for it, period,” he said.
Jim Schumacher, an attorney representing the three women, said they never asked because they believed the tape would have been with other evidence in the case in the county Clerk of Courts office.
Chris Cook, an attorney for store manager Joe Garrett, who was accused of negligence for not stopping the harassment the three women claimed they experienced, said he got the tape after Conti’s ex, Mike Dudek, offered to sell it to him for $25,000.
“When he told me how much, I told him he was off his rocker,” he said, adding that he countered with an offer of $150.
At that, he said, Dudek threatened to burn the tape, which prompted Cook to ask Zaleski for an order to seize it as evidence.
Cook seemed surprised that the attorneys for three women even wanted the tape because although it was discussed in the trial, it never was shown to the jury.
Lewis Zipkin, another of the women’s attorneys, said they want the appeals court to have as much information as they can when they argue their case that Zaleski abused his power during the trial.
“What we want is for the Court of Appeals to have the same information as the trial court had,” he said.
Apparently, all he had to do was ask.
—Brad Dicken

Orders no longer up in the Court?
Planning on heading over to the Court Street Cafe for lunch Monday?
You might want to have a backup plan.
Rumors around downtown about the Middle Avenue eatery insist that it will be closed come next week, but owner Dale Lewis is keeping quiet.
“I can’t say anything about that,” Lewis said when asked about the speculation.
The rumor has made its way to the County Administration building, City Hall and Main Street Elyria’s offices, but no one can attest its veracity.
“I have heard about it, but I can’t confirm it because I haven’t heard it from Dale’s mouth,” Main Street Elyria Program Director Tamela Grubb said. “I’ve heard a rumor, but I have no idea. People discuss things all the time that end up not being true.”
With Lewis keeping quiet, it looks like we’ll have to wait until next week to see what’s up.
—Joe Medici

Mum’s the word from Lorain inspector
Lorain’s Chief Building Inspector William Desvari has instructed his staff not to speak to the media.
Desvari issued a memo to his staff, dated July 11, wherein he wrote that only himself or someone from the mayor’s office can give information to reporters. The rule change was put in place after a reporter began asking questions of Desvari’s staff regarding departmental policy, Safety Service Director Mike Kobylka said.
Kobylka said the policy makes sense. “Not every employee in the city knows what the department heads know,” he said.
He also said Desvari was within his rights to issue the order as department heads are allowed to make policy changes with regard to their staff.
—Adam Wright

Big house sells for bigger bucks
The home that had the potential of being the most expensive residential sheriff’s sale in Lorain County history was privately sold after six months of sitting on the market.
The property at 24189 Squire Road in Columbia Station includes a nearly 5,000-square-foot home and 30 surrounding acres of land. It was foreclosed upon in January and couldn’t be sold for less than two-thirds of its appraised value — a little less that $1.2 million.
But apparently, someone really wanted it. It finally sold for $3.5 million on June 22.
—Stephen Szucs

John and Jane Does might not be as numerous
It turns out the number of unidentified bodies from Cleveland posted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics could be dead wrong.
When the department released a study showing Cleveland taking second place to New York in the number of unidentified remains on record, USA Today ran a front page story, and so did we.
But, according to a story in the Plain Dealer this week, Cuyahoga County Coroner Elizabeth Balraj accidentally submitted the number of bodies who are unidentified when they come into her office.
The trouble is, not all of those bodies remained unidentified.
In reality, many of the 2,184 bodies the bureau lists as unidentified have been identified by fingerprints and forensics.
The Plain Dealer reported that the feds aren’t about to change the number in their database, which is no surprise considering the track record of federal agencies admitting mistakes, let alone actually fixing them.
—Shawn Foucher

Jet lag sure takes its toll
Some jokes write themselves
California-based comedian Mark Lundholm, 48, said he’s often flying from one city to the next in a dizzying schedule that includes comedy shows and visits to jails to talk to the inmates.
A former drug addict-lawbreaker himself, Lundholm said the jailhouse crowds are his favorite.
“I never lose here,” he said Wednesday at Lorain County Jail. “I’ve done over 500 of these places. The material is always new, and there’s a lot of potential.”
But all those miles traveled tend to provide ample material for jokes. Lundholm said he witnessed something rather strange two weeks ago.
The scene: It was rainy, dark and late at night, and Lundholm’s plane had just touched down at a Chicago airport.
“I was tired,” Lundholm said. “I go to the baggage claim to get my luggage. I go to grab my bag, and there’s a lady on the baggage carousel.
“She’s lying on her back like a turtle, trying to get up,” he said, chuckling. “I’ve flown a million miles and never seen anything like that. I’m 48 years old, and it was the first time I’d ever seen someone on their back on a baggage carousel.”
The question: How to help?
“Where do you grab?” Lundholm said. “There’s no handle. What do you do?”
Lundholm said a few travelers eventually helped the woman off the carousel.
—Shawn Foucher

Nickname switch had its ramifications
Don’t tell Oberlin school officials that changing the district’s nickname was a trivial decision.
Dropping the Indians as the mascot was among the reasons people gave for voting against the 1.9-mill levy to fund laptops for every student in the middle and high schools, according to Superintendent Geoffrey Andrews.
School board members said they heard the same thing after the levy failed 59 percent to 41 percent in May.
“It was a way of getting back at us for changing the mascot,” said Carol Correthers.
The new mascot will be the Phoenix, the mythical bird that rises from the ashes.
Andrews said the public weighed in on other reasons for voting against the levy, including a New York Times article published four days before the election that pointed out problems with laptop programs in other districts around the country.
Andrews, who argued that the article was one-sided, said there wasn’t time to fight back.
“It was kind of like the Swift Boat veterans,” Andrews said, referring to attacks on John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election.
—Cindy Leise

Was there or wasn’t there a hero?
Who doesn’t want to be known as a hero?
Apparently, there is at least one man who doesn’t.
That’s because the mystery man, who somehow vanished before police could get his name, is being hailed as a hero after he intervened in a dramatic accident Tuesday afternoon near Lorain and Bagley roads in North Ridgeville.
Witnesses say the man was in the area just as 47-year-old Jeffery Faulk of Olmsted Township suffered a seizure while driving north on Bagley Road. The seizure rendered the man incapable of controlling his Nissan Altima, causing him to plow into the back of another car before careening across four lanes of traffic.
Faulk’s car didn’t stop until it collided with the side of a garage, police said. However, as all this was going on, witnesses said an unknown man jumped from his car, chased down the Altima, opened the driver’s side door and was able to press his foot to the brake before the car took out the entire garage and the Cadillac parked inside.
Strapped carefully in the backseat was a toddler who escaped without so much as a scratch, and Faulk was taken to St. John’s West Shore Hospital.
And, as for his guardian angel, police have no idea who the man is or if the events happened as witnesses claim.
“There’s nothing on the officer’s report that mentions that,” Police Capt. Allen Dent said. “There is a witness statement that mentions that, but how accurate that is I don’t know. If it is true, we would like to hear from this guy.”
It raises the question — could there be a Clark Kent, Peter Parker or Bruce Wayne in our midst?
— Lisa Roberson