September 15, 2014

Elyria
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Burge slaps Cillo with contempt charge

Assistant prosecutor held in contempt

ELYRIA — Assistant County Prosecutor Tony Cillo has been accused of breaking one of the cardinal rules of the criminal justice system — respect the judge.
County Common Pleas Judge James Burge held Cillo in contempt Thursday, saying Cillo crossed the line in a motion he wrote to oppose joining two death penalty cases to determine whether the way the state administers lethal injections to condemned inmates is unconstitutional.
Cillo could face jail time, fines and even have the contempt citation forwarded to the Ohio Supreme Court for further sanctions when he appears before Burge for a hearing Monday.
Burge said in his order that Cillo accused him of deliberately trying to create an error that would prevent the death penalty from being used.
In particular, Burge said he took exception to this sentence written by Cillo: “This Court would then be responsible for purposely creating potential reversible error in the future of a death penalty case, effectively sandbagging any attempt by the State of Ohio to seek, impose and carry out a death sentence on either defendant.”
Burge, a former defense attorney, has said previously that if the circumstances of a case warranted it, he could impose the death penalty, despite his personal reservations about it.
Burge declined to comment further Thursday, and county Prosecutor Dennis Will said Cillo would not comment on the contempt citation.
Will said he didn’t believe Cillo had done anything wrong. Will said he plans to personally be at Monday’s hearing.
“I reviewed that motion before it was filed, and I don’t believe there was anything disrespectful or contemptuous of the court in it,” Will said.
Will said Cillo will remain on the job, adding that any punishment Burge imposes could be appealed.
Despite his anger at Cillo’s motion, Burge agreed with him — refusing to merge the cases of Ronald McCloud and Ruben Rivera. However, Jeff Gamso, the attorney representing Rivera in his challenge of the lethal injection process, will be allowed to argue for McCloud as well in a hearing to avoid having two hearings on the same issue.
Will and Cillo have both objected to even allowing Rivera’s hearing to go forward, saying that Burge shouldn’t consider whether the lethal injection process is cruel and unusual unless Rivera is convicted and sentenced to death for the 2004 shooting death of Manuel Garcia.
McCloud could get the death penalty if convicted of raping and killing Janet Barnard in a church bathroom in 2005.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.