December 20, 2014

Elyria
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Joseph Allen has chance for parole next year

Joseph Allen likely will go before the Ohio Parole Board in January, according to a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

JoEllen Smith said that Allen, who was returned to prison earlier this month as part of a new sentencing deal in the controversial Head Start child molestation case, immediately became eligible for parole because his new sentence calls for him to serve 10 to 25 years in prison.

Allen had served roughly 15 years before he was released, along with codefendant Nancy Smith, in 2009 by Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge, who later acquitted the pair. Smith and Allen originally were found guilty by a jury in 1994 of molesting 4- and 5-year-old children on Smith’s Head Start bus route, allegations they have long denied.

Burge had freed the pair because their original sentencing entries failed to note they had been convicted by a jury and later concluded that they had been wrongly convicted. The technical flaws in the sentencing entries have since been corrected.

But Burge’s decisions to acquit Smith and Allen were overturned on appeal and they both ended up cutting deals with prosecutors.

Smith’s charges were amended to gross sexual imposition and she received 12 years in prison, but since she had already served more than 14 years behind bars she was spared a return trip to prison.

Allen, who had originally received consecutive life sentences, saw his sentence cut and the time he already has served makes him eligible for parole.

JoEllen Smith, who isn’t related to Nancy Smith, said that despite Allen’s eligibility the hearing won’t take place until early next year because victims and prosecutors need to be formally notified of the possibility of parole.

County Prosecutor Dennis Will said Friday that he hasn’t given much thought to what position he will take on Allen’s possible parole. Once he receives the formal notification, Will said he will prepare a response making his position known.

He said after Allen’s new sentence was handed down earlier this month that if Allen, who has an extensive criminal record, including a prior sex conviction, was to be released he would need to be monitored.

Nancy Smith unsuccessfully sought parole in 2007, but that request was rejected after she refused to admit to crimes she insists she didn’t commit and the parole board concluded she was in “denial.”

Both Allen and Smith have asked for executive clemency from Gov. John Kasich, although the Parole Board has recommended that Kasich deny those requests.

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