December 18, 2014

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Board denies parole to Joseph Allen

Joseph Allen

Joseph Allen

The Ohio Parole Board has denied Joseph Allen’s bid for parole in the controversial Head Start child molestation case.

“The Board has determined that the inmate is not suitable for release at this time,” the Parole Board wrote in its decision released Tuesday.

The ruling means that Allen will have to serve out the remaining nine years and 9 months of his prison sentence. He had served roughly 15 years before he was freed by Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge in 2009. Burge later acquitted Allen and codefendant Nancy Smith, a decision overturned on appeal.

JoEllen Smith, a spokeswoman for the Parole Board and who isn’t related to Nancy Smith, said the 60-year-old Allen isn’t eligible for another parole hearing before his release.

Allen made a deal with prosecutors in October that saw his sentence on charges of gross sexual imposition, felonious sexual penetration and rape modified and his sentence reduced from multiple life sentences to 10 to 25 years in prison. He will also have to register as a sex offender when he is released from prison.

The Parole Board also wrote in its explanation that Allen hasn’t taken steps that would make him amenable to release.

“The inmate has completed no programming while incarcerated — in particular no sex offender programming has been completed that may abate his sexually offending behavior,” the board wrote. “The inmate has a prior sex offense conviction of a minor victim under the age of 10. The instance offense involved multiple children under the age of 10. The release of this inmate would not be consistent with the welfare and security of society.”

Allen and Smith both have long maintained they are innocent of the allegations that they molested 4- and 5-year-old children on Smith’s Head Start bus route in the early 1990s.

K. Ronald Bailey, Allen’s attorney, wasn’t directly involved in his client’s parole hearing, but he said he had suggested to Allen that he ask for his hearing to be continued so he could complete some prison programs. Bailey said he thinks that would have given Allen a better chance with the board.

He said he had hoped that given the overcrowded nature of the state’s prison system and the lingering questions about Allen’s guilt, the Parole Board would have done something different.

Bailey also disagreed that Allen was a risk to the community.

“This is not somebody who’s about to do something when he gets out,” Bailey said. “He was out for four years and didn’t do anything.”

Burge, who has removed himself from the case, said he wasn’t surprised by the decision, given the Parole Board’s recommendation that Gov. John Kasich reject clemency applications from both Smith and Allen.

“I’m not surprised he hasn’t admitted to committing an offense that never occurred,” the judge said.

Rob Nichols, a spokesman for Kasich, said the governor has yet to take any action on the clemency applications in the case.

The Parole Board also rejected a bid by Smith for parole in 2007, noting that she was in “denial” for refusing to admit she had committed a crime.

Smith, like Allen, reached an agreement with prosecutors last year, but under the terms of her deal she wasn’t required to return to prison or register as a sex offender.

Smith acknowledged the jury’s guilty finding and accepted reduced charges in exchange for a 12-year prison sentence. She had served nearly 15 years of her original 30-to-90-year prison sentence when Burge freed her in 2009.

Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will said he didn’t take a position on whether Allen should be granted parole. He said he forwarded paperwork from the case to the Parole Board and noted that if Allen were to be released he should be under some form of supervision.

“Supervision was an important aspect for public safety,” Will said.

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