June 30, 2016

Elyria
Sunny
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Assault charge against Elyria police officer dropped

ELYRIA — The assault charge Elyria police Officer Jay Loesch had faced for allegedly punching a suspect handcuffed to a hospital bed was formally dropped Tuesday after the veteran officer completed a court-ordered diversion program.

Loesch

Special Prosecutor John Reulbach Jr. said that Loesch has successfully completed the counseling sessions that were part of the diversion program.

Johnny Smith Jr., the man Loesch was accused of hitting at EMH Medical Center in Elyria on Jan. 27, had asked for the assault charge, which he and his attorney had originally pushed for, to be dropped during a hearing in August.

“I just want to go on with my life, and I don’t want anything bad to happen to this guy,” Smith said during the August hearing in Elyria Municipal Court.

Reulbach said dropping the charge was in accordance with Smith’s desires for the case against Loesch to go away.

“It was a stand-up move on his part,” Reulbach said. “There might have been an ulterior motive on his part, but he did it.”

Smith also apologized during the August hearing for the comment he made to Loesch and other officers who had taken him to the hospital for medical treatment following his arrest earlier on Jan. 27 for his role in the theft of steak and beer from Apples Grocery Store in Elyria.

According to an internal police report and witness statements, a highly intoxicated Smith — he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.355, more than four times the legal driving limit — was brought into the hospital’s emergency room and while he was awaiting treatment told officers that they should have been killed by Ronald Palmer on March 15, 2010.

Palmer gunned down Elyria police Officer James Kersetter that night before he was shot and killed by Loesch and Officer Donald Moss after he refused orders to surrender and charged Loesch.

After Smith made the comment in January, Loesch and Officer Richard Walker shut the door to his hospital room, and Loesch struck Smith once in the face, according to a nurse who watched the incident on a monitor connected to a video camera in the room.

Loesch, who is now a detective, was given a 10-day suspension for the incident but only served five days of it. He won’t have to serve the remaining five days if he has no further disciplinary problems for a year.

The city and its insurance company also paid Smith $50,000 to head off a lawsuit he had planned to file.

Bob Phillips, Loesch’s attorney, said Tuesday that he plans to ask Visiting Judge Michael Weigand to seal the criminal case against his client, something Reulbach said he won’t object to.

“We’re obviously very pleased,” Phillips said Tuesday after the assault charge against Loesch was dropped.

Smith was sentenced to six months in jail and given probation after pleading guilty to charges of failure to comply, obstructing official business and DUI for his actions on Jan. 27, which included driving the semi truck cab in which Jeff Marcum had loaded the stolen groceries. Marcum pleaded no contest to a theft charge in the case.

Police contended that Smith nearly ran down officers trying to stop him in a nearby parking lot, although Smith has argued that he didn’t see the officers. Police also reported having to force a struggling Smith out of the truck and then fight to get him into handcuffs.

Smith, who has an extensive criminal record, insisted that he cooperated with police and was beaten for no reason, accusations that Reulbach rejected during his investigation.

Since his release from jail in July, Smith has been back in jail on probation violations, including testing positive for cocaine.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.


About Brad Dicken

Brad Dicken is the senior writer for the Chronicle-Telegram. He covers courts and county government, and has been with the Chronicle since 2001. He can be reached at 329-7147 or BDicken@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter.