July 28, 2014

Elyria
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Judge Burge says grand jury will focus on him

Burge

Burge

ELYRIA — A special grand jury was empaneled at the Lorain County Justice Center on Friday and county Common Pleas Judge James Burge said he believes it will focus on him.

“I feel comfortable that they’ve assembled and I’m the subject of the discussion,” Burge said.

The judge said he was told a visiting judge from Franklin County was in the Justice Center to convene the special grand jury and that Assistant Ohio Attorney General Matt Donahue also was in the building for the same reason.

According to Ohio Supreme Court records released earlier this week, Dale Crawford, a retired Franklin County judge was named late last year to handle grand jury proceedings in an investigation of a sitting judge in the General Division of the Lorain County Common Pleas Court.

Donahue and two senior prosecutors from county Prosecutor Dennis Will’s office met with county Common Pleas Judge James Miraldi in December to request a visiting judge to oversee the investigation.

“They advised me that there was now an investigation going on of one of the other general division common pleas judges on our bench. They did not disclose any information or even the name of the judge,” Miraldi wrote in a Dec. 13 email requesting the visiting judge. “I firmly believe that all of the six judges would feel a heavy conflict of interest to be involved in an investigation of another colleague on the bench here.”

The full extent of what criminal wrongdoing is being alleged against the judge under investigation remains unclear.

Will said earlier this week that he asked Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation to look into criminal allegations against a sitting judge last June, but he has declined to say which judge is the target of the investigation and what is being looked at.

Will has said the allegations against the sitting judge were brought to him by another judge, who he also declined to name.

Will said his office isn’t involved in the matter and that he couldn’t comment Friday.

Burge said he concluded he was the subject of the probe after hearing from friends, former staff members and attorneys that a BCI agent was asking questions about his finances and 600 Broadway, a Lorain building where he kept his private law offices before taking the bench in 2007.

Lorain attorney Zachary Simonoff, who began renting space at the building last year, has said he was questioned by a BCI agent about who he pays rent to and whether he has received special treatment from Burge.

Simonoff has denied he got special treatment from the judge.

According to public records, the Broadway building is owned by Whiteacre North Ltd., a company Burge, his wife, Susan Burge, and two other lawyers formed in 1997 to own and operate the building, which they purchased in 1985.

When he took the bench, Burge, his wife and Lorain attorney Michael Tully made a deal to sell the building to attorney Shimane Smith, but that deal fell apart in 2011 and ownership of the building reverted back to Whiteacre North.

The judge transferred his ownership stake in the company to his wife in June 2011 and has said he no longer has a financial tie to the building, where several other lawyers who appear in his courtroom rent office space.

Although Burge continues to be a guarantor on a $365,240 loan on the building issued in 1998, he has said that only means he will have to pay off the money if Whiteacre North defaults on the loan, something he considers unlikely. Will has said the loan guarantee appears to give Burge a financial interest in the building.

Beyond the investigation, Burge and Will are locked in a long-simmering dispute that has erupted in recent weeks over allegations the judge physically intimidated Assistant County Prosecutor Jennifer Riedthaler.

Burge has said he doesn’t believe he ever intimidated Riedthaler, who he has said he treated like a daughter. But he said Will’s efforts to convince his fellow judges to remove him as administrative judge and stop him from hearing criminal cases were backed up by threats from Will and his staff.

The judge has accused Will’s office of threatening to release a file he says they’ve kept on him since 2007 that purportedly contains embarrassing information. Burge said Will told county Common Pleas Judge Christopher Rothgery that if the judges didn’t take action he would release the information.

Will has said he wasn’t threatening the judges but instead seeking their help in dealing with his concerns about Burge. He said his office would have to include the information that’s been gathered about Burge’s behavior as part of a request to the Ohio Supreme Court to bar Burge from being involved in criminal cases.

Will’s office has had mixed success in previous efforts to force Burge off specific cases.

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

  • Bill

    Burge is an egotistical idiot and thrives on any and all media attention. Good or bad as long as his name is in the headlines.

    • silkskin1960

      honestly….I dont think HE is the one that is putting his name out there…that would be the ones that DONT LIKE HIM. They need to investigate a few others in that office if they are going to start turning over stones…..how bout we start with Dennis and EVERYONE that he is associated with all the way back to college….I have the feeling there is a rock that needs to be turned over

      • Simon Jester

        Wrong. ( again).

        You want to point at the prosecutor, a Marine Vet and say he needs investigated? Have you even read Will’s resume?

        Burge’s only notable achievement was dodging Vietnam and having a long career of defending the worst kind of humans from their much deserved punishment.

        Burge has so many questionable issues associated with his tenure in office that politics don’t even play into it. The man is just scum.

        Burge as a judge means there is no justice in that court. He does whatever the hell he wants, and the law be damned.

        • givemeabreak1234

          Wills military service has nothing to do with his character, he was a law breaking double dipper that used the system to get where he is. He should have been prosecuted for double dipping when he was a cop in Elyria. So please don’t judge others when clearly you have no idea who you are defending. Perhaps what Burge does is pertaining to the law and not politics because what can you do to him let him retire. Please open your eyes maybe Burge doesn’t sentence people the way you want him to but he isn’t riding the political train for anyone, Get rid of Will also and clean the whole place up.

        • jz

          Defending criminals is part of our Constitution and justice system. Like it or not. That was his job.

          • nick-2004

            I agree…and I am sure he defended innocent people too who were just scapegoats for eager, overzealous prosecutors like Will and Cillo.

          • jz

            That I could not speak too, but, some prosecutors are overzealous.

          • nick-2004

            Case in point here…overzealous Will going after Judge Burge. Burge will crush Will like the bug he is…the gnat.

  • Simon Jester

    I really hope they have enough dirt on that snake to get him removed from office.

    (My apologies to any decent reptiles that may have been offended)

    • silkskin1960

      Sure….we can elect you and watch you fall down in a crash and burn too

      • Simon Jester

        Because I’ve espoused a desire for the position or the credentials required?

        That doesn’t make any damned sense, you tard.

  • silkskin1960

    I want to know why nobody is investigating Dennis Will? It seems to me if he has so much to say….lets see about the things that he is NOT saying…..

    • Scout

      Ah….there it is. Finally someone is asking about the other side of the story. Hmmmmmm

    • luvmytoaster

      Dennis Will is a bully at best – I served on a grand jury and he told us how to vote, no questions asked…..

  • SniperFire

    He’s a Democrat. And people were expecting…?

  • Sis Delish

    There is an Urge to Purge Burge going on?

  • stillsleepyeyes

    And when the walls come a tumbling down…………………burge will fall to the ground……………..

  • TheRustyScupper

    About time.

  • Sis Delish

    The CTt has made it to this page!

    • Sis Delish

      The CT Stalker has followed. Right, “Assassin”, former Food Truck Wannabe.

  • Donald Tittle

    Dennis Will and his hatchet man Tony Cillo are no better than Rosenbaum and White. Shame on them for their attack on a fine gentleman and a wonderful judge, Jim Burge. To suggest that Judge Burge would play favorites because a lawyer pays him a few hundred dollars a month rent is beyond absurd. Only in the bizarre world of the Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office could such a ridiculous thought take hold. Shame on you! I have been a criminal defense lawyer for 38 years and have been a friend of Jim Burge for 41 years. He is a brilliant man and a superior jurist. To all those that make comments and do not put your full name to them, shame on you as well. If you believe what you say have the nerve to put your name to it. Notice that I did.

    • Otter

      Are you the same Donald Tittle that was arrested for buying drugs outside the Justice Center? The reason I choose not to use my name is simple, there are millions of people who can view these posts, I prefer they not have access to my personal life. Shame on you, I would think that as a criminal defense lawyer would know better.

    • Simon Jester

      Figures.

      Lower forms of life run together. Professional courtesy?

    • Rtgh123

      Ninety percent if the people posting on this site are ignorant, whack jobs. Shame on anyone who is dumb enough to use their real name. Who wants smelly, racist, gun toting rednecks who don’t know the difference between socialism and communism showing up their doorstep?

      • stillsleepyeyes

        And the other 10 percent hide behind government jobs lying , cheating , because they wouldn’t be able to handle a real job. oh …like burge

      • Simon Jester

        The only difference is one generally involves more guns, secret police, and gulags.

  • Hsiled Sis

    @sisdelish:disqus supports this fool!

  • Stan K

    Kind of funny how Karma works,not funny for Burge but definitely funny.Buh-Bye-Burge

    • jz

      You never say what exactly your problem is with Judge Burge?

      • Stan K

        I don’t have a problem,the Judge obviously has a problem.I just find it funny that a Judge is being judged, probably for past judgments or possibly just using bad judgement. Are you part of the Burge fan club?…maybe the club president?

  • Lydia Sinclair

    I support Judge Burge 100%. He and John Howard are the best judges our county has ever had. I don’t care what you close minded self righteous critics think.

    • luvmytoaster

      He must have given you community service instead of prison?

  • Americaschild

    Hey Prosecutor—go after the criminals.

    • nick-2004

      The fact is: they go after only people they hate; and they hate Burge because they seem to think he is abetting the criminals by giving them lesser punishments than the prosecutors think he should, which is a joke because these prosecutors want to crowd our jails and prisons with crap that doesn’t need prison sanctions like marijuana cases and some others. He gives the criminals the sentences they rightfully deserve and doesn’t listen to the prosecutors’ office, which seems to think that it is invested by the state of Ohio to be judge, jury, and executioner; and not Judge Burge. Fire the entire prosecutors’ office and disbar almost all especially Will and Cillo.

      • luvmytoaster

        Yes, lets keep all of these criminals on the streets where they will be reformed…..Burge is known to give lenient sentences to criminals.

        • nick-2004

          So what? It’s better than giving them ridiculously long sentences that cost us taxpayers oodles of money that some of these dumb prosecutors want. He gives appropriate sentences for the crimes and isn’t swayed by the prosecutors’ office’s “give-them-the-max” arguments at sentencing. It’s the other judges in this state and country for this matter that are the reason that the USA has 26.3% of the world’s prison population—”You sold some weed twice! You are a danger to the public! I sentence you under the RICO act to 15 years in prison. Your co-defendant is a repeat offender: life for him!” That’s absurd, but Will and Cillo like the goofballs that they are will make these arguments at sentencings.

          • luvmytoaster

            Either way it cost us, the taxpayers. The thugs will steal, murder and do whatever they have to do to support their habits – lock them up now and pay or pay later when they murder someone and the victim’s family is awarded millions of dollars…..

  • nick-2004

    In my mind, Judge James Burge is the BEST judge in the state of Ohio. I have never been before him, but I know he follows the law from cases I’ve observed and read about, and he doesn’t allow his personal human prejudices affect his legal judgments like some judges around this state…cough, cough, Kim R. Hoover et al.. He’s an honest judge and the great thing is: he is not a former prosecutor, which seems to be a hallmark for judges and personally, I think that any former prosecutor should be barred from being a judge; it is a conflict of interest in my mind. Those judges only have their former stakes involved and have incentive to ignore the law and the Constitution. It’s disgraceful and Will should be disbarred like the pig he is!

  • nick-2004

    There is nothing wrong with Judge James Burge. He’s an honorable man and I wish I could reach out to him to tell him that I believe he is a great judge. If only all judges were as fair and honest as he is, and followed the law and our Constitution the way prescribed instead of being swayed by personal, human prejudices.

  • nick-2004

    This is embarrassing for Lorain County that we have a prosecutors’ office that has such a vendetta against a judge just because he was never a part of their “good-ol’-boy” club in the prosecutors’ office. Thank God for that. We don’t need any more judges who are former prosecutors–they should never be allowed to be judges because they are incredibly biased and are the reasons so many innocent people get screwed–because they can’t follow the law; they are jaundiced.

  • The Wreeper

    All typical behaviors of you local government…hire, frame, fire, false light, and defend themselves…what a bunch of jokers and clowns.