The Federal Public Defender’s Office in Cleveland has asked to be removed from the case of accused pimp Jeremy Mack after federal prosecutors suggested one of the attorneys assigned to represent Mack was involved in his efforts to convince one of his alleged victims to lie about his treatment of her.
At the heart of the allegations is a series of text messages, phone calls and emails from October that Assistant Federal Public Defender Carolyn Kucharski exchanged with one of the women Mack is accused of forcing into prostitution before his arrest in Elyria in April.
Mack, 38, is accused of dealing drugs to young women, including a 16-year-old girl, and when their drug debts became too much for them to pay off, forcing them into prostitution. He allegedly held his victims against their will in a rented Tattersall Court home in Elyria and controlled them through violence and intimidation.
Ashley Onysko, who was accused of helping Mack operate his prostitution ring by advertising the victims online, taking them to appointments and keeping the operation’s books, has already pleaded guilty to charges in the case and is awaiting sentencing.
Kucharski insisted in one text message that she believes Mack’s claims that he wasn’t forcing the women to prostitute themselves.
“This is so hard because I really do believe him … I don’t think anyone was forced or coerced … he is guilty of the drugs no way around that and he knows that … but they have made him out to be a monster that he’s not … very hard case,” Kucharski texted to the victim during the Oct. 8 exchange.
“I know it’s terrible!” the victim replied. “I was his girl so things were different with me but those girls are lying! And I’m not the one who even told what he did! It’s messed up.”
The woman later added that she “used to pray every day I could get out of that situation but this is so messed up.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bridget Brennan wrote in a court filing that Kucharski appears to have been helping Mack circumvent a court order barring contact between him and the victim, who Mack appears to have viewed as key to his defense.
Prosecutors learned about the communications only after the victim was arrested in Blue Ash, Ohio, and police there obtained a search warrant for her phone and forwarded their findings to the FBI.
In one text message, Kucharski wrote that Mack had asked about the victim and that while he wants to contact her, he’s not allowed to.
“If you send a letter to me I will get it to him,” Kucharski texted the woman. “No pressure, just if you want.”
She also wrote that the victim could send Mack a letter, but it would probably be confiscated by prison officials.
The victim later suggests that Kucharski, who did not return a call seeking comment, should take a picture of Mack.
“I will see what I can do for you!” Kucharski texted. “I have pic from discovery I can email to you if you want.”
She later tells the woman that Mack had asked for photos of her. After sending the photos, Kucharski then texts the woman that although she can’t take her cell phone with her when she visits Mack in prison, she would try to take a picture for her if she sees him in court.
Kucharski also has been accused of sending the victim two letters that Mack wrote to her but she never received.
The victim later sent Mack a letter in which she wrote about getting letters from him and that she “can’t stop looking at pictures of you.”
“Kucharski’s delivery of messages to Victim #4 — in particular that Mack wanted to have pictures of her, was happy to hear about her, and the lulling letters he attempted to send to her in July — makes Kucharski a potential witness in this matter against defendant and a participant in events to be explored at trial,” Brennan wrote.
But in a response, Kucharski’s fellow public defender Edward Bryan wrote that there was nothing improper and that Mack’s lawyers had an obligation to explore what the victim was going to testify to during trial.
That included forwarding two letters Mack had written to the victim in the case before he was charged with forcing her into prostitution, he wrote.
“The letters were potentially relevant to Mr. Mack’s case and defense counsel had, not only a right, but an obligation, to convey copes of the letters to Number 4 and question her regarding the letters’ contents,” Bryan wrote.
He also wrote that during a phone call with Brennan, she told him that Kucharski’s action may even have been criminal. He also suggested that it was improper for the government to have read the communications Kucharski had with a potential witness in the case.
Bryan also noted that while the victim told FBI Special Agent Kelly Liberti that Mack had “brainwashed” her and that she appreciated the FBI’s help, she told Mack a far different story.
In a call between the victim and Mack in May, the woman complained that Liberti was harassing her even after she told the agent that she didn’t want to talk to her anymore.
In addition to sex trafficking and drug charges, Mack is accused of trying to manipulate witnesses in the case, including his son and the victim Kucharski was talking to.
According to court documents filed by prosecutors, Mach has made more than 250 phone calls while incarcerated at a Youngstown prison, including to the victim.
In April, “Mack said they’re going to get married when he gets out. Mack said if she carried him through this with her love, he will marry her when he comes home and spend the rest of his life with her. It’s a promise,” prosecutors wrote.
Mack was also telling his family to take care of the woman and make sure her mind stayed focused on helping him.
“It’s critical to me to stay on top of her, just to keep her mind right, and her focused, and her motivated, where I need her to be,” Mack told his son, Toby Lewis, who is facing state drug and weapons charges, during an April 18 phone call.
Despite his promises to marry the victim at the center of the dispute between prosecutors and defense attorneys, Mack may not have actually intended to follow through.
According to prosecutors, in a July phone call Mack told a woman who fathered one of his children that all of the women he’s accused of forcing into prostitution were “all my girls.”
“The female friend asked Mack if he was in a committed relationship with any of them, to which Mack responded: ‘Hell no,’” Brennan wrote. “The friend then asked Mack who he was going to be with when he gets out. Mack said nobody.”