December 21, 2014

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Lorain County engineer pleads not guilty

Lorain County Engineer Ken Carney talks with his attorney, Michael Stepanik, during his arraignment Monday in Oberlin Municipal Court. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

Lorain County Engineer Ken Carney talks with his attorney, Michael Stepanik, during his arraignment Monday in Oberlin Municipal Court. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

OBERLIN — Lorain County Engineer Ken Carney pleaded not guilty Monday in Oberlin Municipal Court to a domestic violence charge.

Carney had been jailed since his arrest Friday night and appeared in court shackled and wearing a Lorain County Jail uniform. Judge Thomas Januzzi granted Carney a $1,000 personal bond during the hearing, but also ordered him to stay away from his live-in girlfriend, Colleen Donnelly, the alleged victim in the case.

Lorain County sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to Carney’s Amherst Township home about 9:30 p.m. Friday by a neighbor who heard a loud argument.

Donnelly told deputies that she and Carney had been drinking and began to argue. The argument escalated to a physical confrontation with Carney poking her with his finger, grabbing a phone out of her hand and making a motion like he was going to strike her with it, she said.

After Carney was arrested, he denied that there had been an altercation and accused Donnelly of making it up, Deputy Zara Hudson wrote in his report.

During Monday’s hearing, Donnelly told Januzzi that she had pushed Carney at one point during the altercation, something that led defense attorney Michael Stepanik to argue that “the facts in this case are in dispute at this time.”

Donnelly also said Monday that during the eight years she’s lived with Carney, there’s been verbal abuse and about a half-dozen instances where the abuse turned physical, although she didn’t provide specifics. The abuse occurred when Carney was drinking, she said.

When she spoke with Hudson on Friday, Donnelly said she had never filed a complaint in the past because she didn’t think anything would happen to Carney or no one would believe her because of his position.

She said she didn’t want police involvement on Friday, either.

“If I could have avoided all this, I would have,” Donnelly told Januzzi. “I never meant for it to come this far.”

Although Donnelly signed a request for a temporary protection order against Carney after his arrest, she said Monday that she didn’t know what she was signing and didn’t want a protection order. She said she signed the request following a long day and that both she and Carney had been drinking but had nothing to eat that day.

“I was dazed and confused,” she said.

Prosecutor Frank Carlson said although Donnelly might not want the order, based on Carney’s history, he felt it was necessary.

“At this point, she wants to protect him because they’re both here sober, but the state has concerns about her safety,” Carlson said.

He also pointed out Carney’s criminal history, which includes DUI convictions in 1984, 2001 and 2006. Carney also was convicted of disorderly conduct in 2003 and pleaded an earlier domestic violence arrest in 2000 down to attempted assault. In that case, he was accused of hitting his then-girlfriend with a bag of cheeseburgers and his fist.

Despite objections from both Carney and Donnelly, Januzzi put a protection order in place, requiring Carney to move out of his Quail Hollow Court house and to stay at least 500 feet away from Donnelly. He also ordered Carney not to drink while he was free on bond and to wear an alcohol monitor.

Carney, a Democrat, has been county engineer since 1989 and also serves as the county’s appointed sanitary engineer. He was last re-elected in 2012.

Carney declined to comment after the hearing.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @BradDickenCT.