November 23, 2014

Elyria
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County deputies to investigate missing evidence

ELYRIA — Lorain County sheriff’s deputies will investigate allegations of missing evidence at the county Adult Probation Department, county Prosecutor Dennis Will said Friday.

de Leon

de Leon

The investigation was launched at the request of county Administrator Jim Cordes and the county commissioners following revelations this week that the former chief deputy probation officer, Emmanuel de Leon, had been facing possible disciplinary action prior to his resignation last week. De Leon is also the director of the county’s Crime Lab and Forensics Laboratory, the latter of which is slated to close Jan. 31.

“We’ve got to get to the bottom of it,” Commissioner Lori Kokoski said. “If there was some wrongdoing, we’ve got to correct it and put everybody’s mind at ease.”

Jonathan Rosenbaum, de Leon’s attorney, wrote in an email Friday that his client’s resignation had nothing to do with the possibility of discipline.

“His decision to resign was based upon the fact that he had no job to protect since the forensic lab was abolished,” Rosenbaum wrote. “He was a ‘probation officer’ in name only and never received training as a probation officer. He was given the title ‘deputy chief probation officer’ for reasons unknown to him and only accepted it out of respect for the court officials who chose to bestow it upon him.”

The allegations against de Leon centered on a Ziploc bag of prescription medication that county Administrative Judge James Burge had ordered destroyed in October.

The October destruction order and two similar orders Burge issued in November were part of an effort by the judges and the Probation Department to get rid of years’ worth of accumulated evidence that had been seized by probation officers. The judges implemented a new policy last year that largely bars probation officers from seizing evidence from probationers.

All de Leon did, Rosenbaum wrote, was take items given to him for storage in his role as chief deputy probation officer.

“It is false to imply otherwise or to suggest that he was responsible in his capacity as lab director for the storage of items taken by probations officers,” Rosenbaum wrote. “This was pursuant to policies of the Court Probation Department which he did not decide and had questioned for some time.”

In the case of the bag of pills, General Division Court Administrator Tim Lubbe has said that when de Leon was asked where the drugs were, he denied knowing their location when contacted while on vacation. Lubbe said de Leon later came into the office and produced the pills, which he claimed to have wanted to use as standards on drug testing equipment used in the labs.

Lubbe said the incident with the pills led to reviews by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Ohio Board of Pharmacy. A report from the board concluded that there were accountability and security problems at the labs, which share employees and space in the basement of the old Lorain County Courthouse.

A letter scheduling a disciplinary hearing for de Leon, which was later canceled, also said two guns and a police scanner can’t be located.

“The foregoing items were logged into your custody and there is no evidence of their destruction,” Lubbe wrote in the letter. “Accordingly, the inability to account for these materials constitutes misfeasance and/or nonfeasance.”

Lubbe has said the court’s investigation into de Leon ended with his resignation from the Probation Department. He and Burge have said that they found no evidence of criminal activity that would have warranted bringing in law enforcement to investigate the missing items.

But Cordes wrote in an email to the commissioners on Friday seeking permission to request an investigation that it was standard procedure for him to ask for deputies to look into missing county property.

“Normally, if this was one of our departments and the issues were similar I would simply do so since this has always been our practice,” Cordes wrote. “However, this is not one of our oversight areas and such a request may well cause some exasperation with the courts.”

Burge said he has no problem with deputies investigating.

“I don’t know what they will be able to find, but obviously if they think an investigation is in order, I wouldn’t quarrel with it,” the judge said.

Lubbe has said nothing has been found that would explain the missing guns and scanner, although he has said there have been a series of break-ins at the old courthouse, where the Probation Department stored seized items.

Burge acknowledged Friday that workers discovered evidence that someone had been living inside the old courthouse, although there was nothing to indicate the squatter had stolen evidence housed there. Cordes said the security hole that had allowed the squatter access to the building was quickly fixed.

Rosenbaum wrote he doesn’t think there’s any reason to blame de Leon or other employees for the missing items.

“It is my opinion that under the circumstances and policies that surrounded this evidence repository and the acknowledged break-ins that neither Mr. de Leon or anyone else had any exposure for anything that may have been lost even if it could be established that anything was missing,” Rosenbaum wrote. “The items in question were ‘confiscated’ by probation officers for reasons that court personnel now suspect may have been improper.”

Rosenbaum also wrote that none of the missing items were given to de Leon for processing and no one is in danger of being wrongfully convicted. Local defense attorneys have said the issue of missing evidence calls the integrity of the labs into questions.

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


  • Level headed

    I have more questions than answers in all the stories that have been written on this topic. Chief Adult Probation Officer Beth Cwalina was the individual who started this investigation. Wasn’t she responsible for the missing items in the evidence room and the entire Adult Probation Department? How many people had keys to this room? Was this room entered when the building was broken into? It doesn’t appear that the missing pills were ever missing. It seems to me that nothing that deLeon has been accused of he has actually done. My thoughts are that Cwalina and Court Administrator Tim Lubbe are setting the tax payers up for a defamation of character lawsuit from deLeon.

    • Allworknoplay

      deleon or Cwalina
      ask the employees who they trust, I’m sure they have a thing or two to say.
      While your at it ask the people who worked with Cwalina at Oberlin.

      • Surf

        Sounds like Cwalina is trying to set de Leon up.

  • Jes

    He took a “baggie of perscription pills” home, denied it twice before admitting he had them. He never had any kind of prior autherization to take them to begin with, which shouldnt of been too hard to get if he was in fact using them for work purposes. Should anyone else be in trouble or take accountability more then him? Im almost positive if I had a “baggie of perscription pills” There would definitely be cops involved and then some. If he cant distinquish that he was wrong, then he definitely shouldnt be a probation officer at all, let alone being responsible for people who are on probation for the exact same thing.

    • Mark B

      Is it not illegal to transport prescription pills not in their original container ? Or is it because he is in law enforcement that he is above the law ?

      • Level headed

        Mark, the pills never left the lab, no one said this guy ever took them home.

      • Phil Blank

        It IS illegal to transport prescription pills not in their original container!!!
        Go try it or ask any cop!

  • Jes

    authorization*

  • Level headed

    Who said the pills ever left the building. Are you assuming? Do some research most crime labs test evidence for comparison standards,

  • Level headed

    The story said the man was on vacation when he was called and asked where one bag of pills out of a mountain of evidence were located. I don’t know about you but I would probably answer the same way he did ” I don’t know where they are”. It appears Jes that you are more interested in punishment than facts.

  • Jes

    Im pretty sure I would know if I had a bag full of perscription drugs in my possession that were ordered to be destroyed by a federal judge. Whether Im on vacation or not. Did he have so much other evidence in his possession that he just didnt know what he had and what he didnt have? Is there no kind of procedure for taking evidence and using it for comparison standards?? The bigger picture is how does this stuff even happen? There are so many things wrong with this story. How does something exist, that is not suppose to exist and ends up in his hands? It makes plenty of sense to blame the whole Adult Probation Department instead of the person that had it. Sounds like justice to me.

  • Level headed

    Jes, if deLeon’s department had a large amount of evidence to dispose of and his Superiors called to ask him about one signal item it may have been hard for him to know of it’s location if he was not in the building. The timing seems fishy. Also consider the possibility that other employees may have had access to the evidence. I’m beginning to wonder if this guy is getting hung out to dry for another reason. Considering the fact that Lorain County has a huge drug addiction situation and depleting revenues the powers that be may have been looking for justification for closing the lab. Will the new less expensive test that Adult Probation Chief Beth Cwalina proposes hold up in a court room? Let’s hope for her sake it does. deLeon also runs the Lorain County Crime Lab which is a separate entity. Law enforcement has credited deLeon with it’s success so whats the true story here. I’m not blaming the entire Adult Probation Dept. as you stated. Once again you are assuming based on the information at hand that he had sole control of the evidence. I tend not pass judgement on anyone or anything until ALL the facts are presented. This is where I differ from you.

    • Americaschild

      inventory is done on every piece of everything in business–and this guy is NOT NOT doing an honest job–prosecute.

      • skip57

        Using this standard, we would prosecute every single working person in America.

        • Level headed

          You my friend are right on the money….

  • Americaschild

    WITH all the unemployment in THIS COUNTY how come this guy is the only person able to do this job? SOMETHING BAD IS HAPPENING as did he interview or did the commish just pick him? Something’s rotten in Lorain County and it’s getting stinkyer!

  • Jes

    He specifically said that “HE” was using them for work purposes. Not anyone else. Not Beth Cwalina or the “Entire Adult Probation Department”. Again, how do you get amnesia about that? Its definitely not something I have to “research”. Trust me when I say I do not disagree with you one bit that things don’t always seem as they appear unfortunately. Thats exactly why no one knows who to trust and who not to trust! Guess we will know soon enough………or not. That wouldnt be suprising either.

  • Level headed

    No amnesia Jes just facts. He was the one who was going to be testing them but one of his employees may have processed them without his knowledge being that he WAS NOT THERE! I’m thinking North Korea may have a key position for you in their judicial system being you are so good at convictions with out all the facts!

    • Jes

      Hmmmm maybe!
      I can’t “convict” anyone. I can only ask questions and draw conclusions from them. If that offends you then im sorry!

      • Level headed

        Just for clarification Beth Cwalina is this guys boss. She was the one that decided to purge the evidence room without him being there. She in my opinion should have known that HER employee {deLeon} was using the pills for comparison testing and not just assuming he had mishandled them. When I cite Cwalina she is the head of the “Entire Adult Probation Department”. She obviously had NO IDEA what was going on in the department she is paid to be in charge of!!!

        • Christopher Carter

          There can be so much speculation on this matter when it comes down to it they both dropped the ball and now there is an investigation going on. This is so much deeper then we probably no.

          • Level headed

            I agree that deLeon should have made it very clear to Cwalina he was using evidence for comparison testing, maybe he assumed she knew that. It seems to me she should have had the professional courtesy to wait until he got back from vacation to ask him about it. Instead she blew this whole thing out of proportion by launching an investigation that we get to pay for.

          • Mark B

            sounds like someone has skin in the game

          • Level headed

            No skin, no game…

  • SniperFire

    Why do I have this vision of Boss Hogg from ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ launching an investigation into his own good ol’ boy associates?