October 20, 2014

Elyria
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Attorney: Hearing needed for Head Start case status

ELYRIA — A hearing to decide whether Nancy Smith and Joseph Allen will remain free while their respective bids for clemency in the controversial Head Start child molestation case move through the system likely will take place in June.

Jack Bradley, one of Smith’s attorneys, said Visiting Judge Virgil Sinclair Jr. said he wants the hearing during a conference call on the case Friday. He said there will be another status conference on the case sometime next month.

“He would like to know as much as all of us what the Parole Board is going to recommend,” Bradley said.

Smith appeared before the Ohio Parole Board in late January to ask for a favorable recommendation to Gov. John Kasich, who will make the final decision about whether or not Smith is granted some form of executive clemency.

Smith and Allen were convicted in 1994 of molesting students on her Head Start bus route and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. They were freed in 2009 when Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge reviewed the case and acquitted them after he decided he had no confidence the guilty verdict was correct.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that Burge overstepped his authority when he acquitted Smith, but Burge, who has since removed himself from the case, left the pair free. He has said he did so at the request of Bradley and prosecutors.

County Prosecutor Dennis Will has supported commuting Smith’s sentence to time served, but has opposed a full pardon.

Allen, meanwhile, has only recently filed for clemency.

Bradley said he’s surprised the Parole Board hasn’t made a recommendation on Smith’s clemency yet and the uncertainty is hard on his client.

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