July 29, 2014

Elyria
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Prosecutor seeks sweeping ban of judge

Burge

Burge

ELYRIA — Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will on Wednesday asked the Ohio Supreme Court to bar county Common Pleas Judge James Burge from hearing any case his office is handling.

In his wide-ranging request, Will accused Burge of physically intimidating and sexually harassing prosecutors, making racist comments, trying to use his position to secure a county job for his wife and pressuring attorneys to contribute to his re-election campaign.

The affidavit of disqualification will immediately halt proceedings in every case in Burge’s courtroom that Will’s office is involved with. Will wrote his office has 276 criminal cases and four civil cases pending before Burge.

Will’s staff fanned out across the county Wednesday evening, dropping off copies of the documents at the offices of 30 attorneys whose cases will be affected. Other attorneys were mailed copies.

Burge said he was served with a copy and while he hadn’t fully reviewed it, he plans to fight the accusations leveled against him.

“I have every confidence I will be able to refute these allegations,” he said.

Will wrote that he has tried a variety of other means to deal with the problems his staff has encountered when dealing with the judge, but those haven’t been effective and he felt he had no choice but to involve the Supreme Court.

“Those futile efforts have resulted in a sitting judge alleging criminal behavior by Judge Burge, and in Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys being physically intimidated, sexually harassed and belittled,” Will wrote. “Judge Burge’s actions have neither ceased, nor abated; instead, they continue to increase in both frequency and severity. (I have) now reached the point where (my) employees are in fear for their physical safety in Burge’s courtroom.”

Burge has said he believes he is the subject of an ongoing investigation into a county judge by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office. Although the full scope of that probe is unknown, it appears to include a review of Burge’s finances and his ownership interest in a Lorain office building where several local attorneys rent space.

Slurs and harassment

Will accused Burge of making racially- and sexually-charged statements over the years, including while court was in session.

For instance, Will wrote, Burge made repeated comments about the looks of Assistant County Prosecutor Sherry Glass, who was once assigned to Burge’s courtroom and requested to be transferred.

Will wrote that Burge has referred to Glass as a “blond bombshell,” frequently commented on her appearance and encouraged young male attorneys to “hit on her.”

During one hearing in a murder case, while Glass was speaking with the judge and the defense attorney at the bench, Burge complemented her on her “librarian look” and said that if she took off her glasses and let her hair down, “Wow, what I would do to you,” according to the documents.

Burge’s alleged sexual comments weren’t confined to Glass. Will wrote that Burge had a habit of walking into the pretrial room where Glass and other female attorneys were working and declaring, “Look what I get to see every morning.”

Burge also is accused of holding a low opinion of former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and once told a fellow judge, a bailiff and a prosecutor in 2008 that “In the words of Judge Roy Bean, I wouldn’t waste my seed or bullets on her.”

Burge supported President Barack Obama in that presidential race.

He also allegedly made comments to then-Magistrate Joe Tackett that his wife, who is black and Irish, was a “Beulah,” which Will wrote is a racially derogatory term for a female house slave, because she supported Clinton.

Those comments came after another magistrate, Charlita Anderson-White, who is black, ruled against Burge’s wife, attorney Susan Burge, during a juvenile court case. Burge told Anderson-White that he planned to run his wife against her boss, Domestic Relations Judge Debra Boros, and that she would be the first one fired if Susan Burge won the race.

After his conversation with Anderson-White, Burge went next door to see Tackett, who later told Anderson-White that Burge had referred to her as an “Uncle Tom” and “Aunt Jemima.”

Burge also allegedly used other racial epithets, including the N-word and “homeboys” to describe black defendants and “crackers” when discussing white people. He once referred to the state of Georgia as a “bunch of angry crackers,” Will wrote.

Will also accused Burge of inquiring about the race of victims or those who purchased drugs because “he would consider a harsher penalty if the victim or purchaser was Caucasian and the Defendant was African American.”

Tackett, who briefly served as Burge’s bailiff in 2013 and now works for Will, also accused the judge of holding anti-Christian views. Will wrote that Burge told Tackett, a Christian, he would like to issue a court order confiscating all Bibles. Tackett also told Will that Burge referred to Catholics as “cannibals.”

“Despite these strongly held animosities, Burge repeatedly told Tackett that he received visions and messages from God that he wanted to share with Tackett,” Will wrote. “Judge Burge had further expressed to Tackett that he had the ability to heal people of their illnesses by laying hands on them, and that he had healed his former bailiff of his cancer.”

Misconduct

Burge also was accused in the documents of other inappropriate behavior both on and off the bench, including insulting both defense attorneys, prosecutors and others. Will wrote that in one instance, Burge warned a defendant that if he received another call from the man’s mother, whom he knew, “I’m going to choke her and you to death and then throw your dead body in jail.”

In another instance, Will wrote, Burge wrote out a not guilty by reason of insanity plea for a defendant in an attempted murder case, ordered his secretary to type it, had the defense attorney sign the document and had his bailiff file it.

Burge’s inappropriate comments also were directed as his fellow judges, Will wrote. Tackett reported that Burge described other judges as “sociopaths” and “greedy hogs.”

Tackett told Will that Burge didn’t like Judge Mark Betleski and wanted “to take a machete and bury it in the heads of various people, specifically including Judge Betleski.”

Will wrote that Judge John Miraldi, who took the bench in 2013, once told him that he believed Burge was “motivated by pure, unadulterated hatred because neither he nor anyone else would hire Susan Burge,” among other reasons.

Will wrote that Judge Burge made several attempts to secure work for his wife in various county jobs, including as a magistrate for Domestic Relations Judge Frank Janik because of his support for Janik during the 2012 election.

“When no job offer was made, Burge indicated a desire to run in an election against sitting Lorain County Court of Common Pleas Judge Christopher Rothgery, who is the brother-in-law of Judge Janik,” Will wrote. “Burge planned to do this in retaliation for the perceived slight by Janik and to extend his own time on the bench when he would have otherwise been barred, due to age, from running for re-election.”

Burge made a similar unsuccessful effort to secure work for his wife as a magistrate at the Lorain County Juvenile Detention Home, Will wrote. Burge allegedly blamed his wife’s not winning that position on Domestic Relations Judge Lisa Swenski.

Will also wrote that Elyria defense attorney Kenneth Lieux told two prosecutors that he felt Burge was “shaking down” attorneys for $500 for a political fundraiser.

Lieux said Wednesday that he didn’t believe he’d used the term “shaking down,” but he did refuse to buy tickets from Burge because the judge was unopposed in his 2012 re-election bid. Lieux said it’s common for judges and other politicians to seek donations for their campaigns.

Will wrote Lieux suspected that Burge was favoring his former law partner, Lorain attorney Jack Bradley. In one case, Will wrote, Lieux had asked for his client to be let out of custody, a request Burge denied, although he granted it when the client hired Bradley, who made the same request.

Bradley said he’s never received any favorable treatment from Burge.

“I like a level playing field and I’ve always felt what we have in Lorain County is a level playing field,” he said.

Reaction

Bradley, who received a copy of the documents Wednesday evening, said he was surprised by the sweeping allegations against Burge as well as the timing.

“I’m more surprised that if these things were happening since 2007 they weren’t brought to light when Judge Burge was running for re-election,” he said.

Lorain attorney Mike Duff said he’s always received fair treatment in Burge’s courtroom and felt that much of what Will has accused Burge of doing was simply jokes the judge had told.

“They’re trying to paint him as someone who’s evil and he’s not,” Duff said. “He’s always been fair to my clients, especially my minority clients.”

Duff also expressed concern that Will appeared to have spent years gathering ammunition to use against Burge.

“This is kind of frightening,” he said. “They start a file on you and mark down every little thing that you do that they find inappropriate.”

In a letter to Burge dated Wednesday, Will denied he had kept a file on the judge since 2007, when Burge took the bench.

Burge accused Will earlier this month of having kept a file on him since his second week in office and threatening to release it to the media if his fellow judges didn’t remove him as administrative judge and bar him from hearing criminal cases. The other judges refused that request.

Will has denied he was trying to intimidate the judges. He has said he approached the other judges because he wanted to handle the matter locally rather than involve the Supreme Court.

“This has been a problem that has been ongoing and it’s been known to other people and they should have taken action,” Will said Wednesday.

Burge also is the subject of an ongoing confidential inquiry by the Supreme Court’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

Intimidation

Will wrote in his court filing that what precipitated Wednesday’s filing was Burge’s conduct toward Assistant County Prosecutor Jennifer Riedthaler.

He wrote that on May 7, Riedthaler was waiting in Burge’s courtroom with an Elyria police detective when the judge came in told them using foul language that he was having a bad day. When Riedthaler asked what was wrong, Will wrote, Burge slammed his hands down on the table and leaned over to her.

“‘You will know in about two minutes. I don’t want to yell at you in front of everyone,’” Burge was quoted as telling Riedthaler.

The judge then began pacing behind Riedthaler, who Will wrote was “upset and frightened from the verbal and non-verbal interaction with Judge Burge.”

A short time later, Will wrote, a deputy brought a prisoner into the courtroom for a hearing and Riedthaler again asked Burge what was wrong. He then grinned and said “I’m over it.”

Burge then walked over to the defendant, Derrick Cantu, and began joking with him and massaged Cantu’s shoulders. Will wrote. The judge also asked the deputy to remove Cantu’s handcuffs so he could punch him in the face.

After Cantu pleaded out to theft and forgery charges during a hearing in which Burge allegedly commented on the attractiveness of Cantu’s girlfriend, the judge jokingly told the deputy to punch Cantu in the face, Will wrote.

Given what happened with Riedthaler in May and during other incidents, Will wrote he now sends two prosecutors to Burge’s courtroom to guarantee their safety.

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

  • Sis Delish

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    • Sis Delish

      Another Identity Pilfering from yet Another Admiring Fan. The “Sis Delish” Above is getting sophisticated by copying profile information, but the tip-off is the few Postings and Upvotes.

      Please Flag this Imposter each time it appears. C-T should be able to block IP Addresses of Frequent Violators.

  • Peter Aldrich

    I know Jim Burge very well. What a bunch of bullcrap…………whoever is coming up with this should win a fiction award……

    • Americaschild

      It’s scary this witchhunt Will and his croonies are up to in trumping up nothings!

  • LGD

    Dennis Will and the rest of the lorain county prosecutor’s office are working more on this bull crap, and investing more time in this vendetta against Judge Burge than they should. Get over it Mr.Will and do our job which ,in this case, is not this personal vendetta that you have been pursuing for way toooooo long.

    • ladyincleveland

      Well said.

  • Wanderer

    This is really sad, Judge Burge fights really hard to make positive difference in Lorain County. Such an attempt to smear his reputation by Dennis Will shows a remarkable lack of character on Will’s part. Maybe the prosecutors office needs to toughen up a bit. Maybe if Dennis Will fought his cases as hard as he fights the people he doesn’t like he’d win more. Either way, my heart sinks with the thought that this kind of politics goes on against those who fight so hard to improve on an area so desperate for improvement.

  • Denise Caruloff

    “Given what happened with Riedthaler in May and during other incidents, Will wrote he now sends two prosecutors to Burge’s courtroom to guarantee their safety”…good grief..really? lol…omg…

    • WTFnext

      I know, right? What is judge Burge going to do? How is their safety threatened?

  • Sis Delish

    From the descriptions in this story alone, the City of Elyria and the County of Lorain have quite the incestuous Court System(s).

    I find the level of neo-nepotism astonishing! This Politician scrubbing the back of another for the promise of a position for another family member, ad infinitum…

    Next thing we’ll hear is the discovery of a whole group of Political Inbreds being housed in some rural property playing banjos in rocking chairs with toothless grins just waiting to be released on the next generation of local voters!

    • Scout

      “”Next thing we’ll hear is the discovery of a whole group of Political Inbreds being housed in some rural property playing banjos in rocking chairs with toothless grins just waiting to be released on the next generation of local voters!”" That’s hysterical.

  • stop ur whining part deux

    In a letter to Burge dated Wednesday, Will denied he had kept a file on the judge since 2007, when Burge took the bench.

    Except he has detailed accounts of multiple incidents through out the judges tenure. Seems to me that Will certainly had a lengthy file.

    I have known Judge Burge most of my life and have appeared in his court as a witness. I never have known him to be anything but a nice person.

    I also know Dennis Will. He is a double dipping scum bag. The guy is a classes fool who gives lawyers a bad name. I repeat, HE GIVES LAWYERS a bad name.

    This reeks of vendetta. Will is mad that Burge would not allow the prosecutors office to have a say in sentencing. That has been always the duty of the judge.

    • Americaschild

      Well said!

    • golfingirl

      “I have committed that I will not commit to any sentence not agreed upon by both parties,” Burge said in the recent botched sentencing of a Mr. Roldan earlier this month.

      Burge himself says he wants prosecutors to have a say in sentencing. So he apparently does not feel sentencing is his “duty” alone.

      They all need to go, for the sake of Lorain County, and start fresh.

      This he said, she said, garbage is both a waste of time and costly. We don’t have the time to deal with these juvenile behaviors, and as is often the case with children, just punish them both and move on.

      • stop ur whining part deux

        Prosecutors can make suggestions certainly. I would never say their input is not important.

        But the diversion program started by Burge and the other judges infuriated Will who wanted them in his own program.

  • GreatRedeemer

    They need cameras in the court. I cant say if it happened or not. America is a land of laws and if the judiciary cant be trusted then how can the citizens accept its actions.

    • ladyincleveland

      Much of this is hearsay. I cannot believe Will is wasting taxpayer dollars on this nonsense. He needs a new job.

  • Ed Simpson

    We need to get rid of Dennis Will! If he spent this much time on prosecuting we might get somewhere with the crime issues in this county what a waste of taxpayer money lets not vote this jerk in again

    • Americaschild

      Now…he and his meatball croonies bad,

    • ladyincleveland

      Well stated.

  • Americaschild

    Pathetic. Will’s gotta grudge and it’s with Burge. It’s good we voters know that rather than get criminals he goes after Judges!

  • golfingirl

    “Prosectuor seeks sweeping ban of judge.”

    First off….Prosecutor is misspelled in the headline.

    Secondly, the “sweeping” which needs to be done is to the entire Lorain County political system. Just full of old dirt that needs to be removed.

    Forget the broom, take a Shop Vac and suck all the garbage right out of the courthouse. …,,judges, prosecutors….all of them.

    Your vote is your broom….time to clean house.

  • SniperFire

    A corrupt a-hole, or in other words, a perfect Democrat.

  • jerome williams

    The allegations that mr.will is making towards judge burge is unbelievable. Mr. Burge is a very fair-minded man who has done nothing but serve this community well. The prosecutors office hates judge burge because he is not a puppet like some other judges in lorain county. he looks at the whole matter and makes his judgements fairly. so what if he tried to get his wife o job. most of the officials in lorain county either have or have helped a family member secure a job by using their position. no crime there. go into the justice center or to the adm. building and you will find a bunch of family members of our elected officials in there, whether by marriage or by blood. J

  • jerome williams

    Rather than burge being gone, I feel its time for a new prosecutor in lorain county. D.Will has been attacking that man forever. Why? bottom line is judge burge is his own man who has the stones to say no…im not going to go with that recommendation. ITS TIME FOR A NEW PROSECUTOR IN LORAIN COUNTY, AND IF SOMEONE WOULD RUN AGAINST D.WILL I WOULD RALLY EVERYDAY TO GET THE PEOPLE OF LORAIN COUNTY TO SEND HIM PACKING. AND ID DO IT FOR FREE.

  • lilbud

    Hey there Dennis, GET A LIFE!!! Stop trying to ruin others!!

  • Oneday67

    Burge can’t be all that bad.
    “Burge also is accused of holding a low opinion of former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and once told a fellow judge, a bailiff and a prosecutor in 2008 that “In the words of Judge Roy Bean, I wouldn’t waste my seed or bullets on her.”
    My sentiments exactly.

  • SniperFire

    ‘Will also accused Burge of inquiring about the race of victims or those who purchased drugs because “he would consider a harsher penalty if the victim or purchaser was Caucasian and the Defendant was African American.”

    African American is not a race. Perhaps he meant to say Negro.

  • Josh simms

    Typical Brad Dicken, does not know how to spell. That is why he works for the Comical Telegram. If his mother said a swear word, he would report it. The guy needs to find a real job. Instead of trying to make people look bad. Come on Brad, put on your big boy underwear and quit reporting.

  • told you so

    Burge is a piece of sh– he will rot for what he has done.

    • stop ur whining part deux

      I bet if I keep a file on you for a few years I will have all sorts of terrible things to say about you.

      Glass houses my friend, glass houses.

  • silkskin1960

    Show me a man or woman that have not made a racial slur or accused of making one in their lives…..and I will show you how to grow wings so you can fly.

  • Simon Jester

    This is a good first step.

    Remove Burge

  • Razorback Twou

    Judge Burge may be controversial, I don’t think he’s stupid. Will on the other hand is so full of himself he can’t do the job he was elected to do. Instead he spends his time and YOUR money on his own petty feud. WAKE up people.

  • bpbatista

    A couple of questions:

    Why did Will wait so long to come forward with these allegations?

    Did Will violate any ethical rules by failing to immediately report Burge’s alleged misconduct?

  • openureyes

    There’s clearly something wrong with this judge, even if any portion of these accusations are true. I would expect witnesses are available or that court reporting document some of this behavior.
    This behavior is unacceptable in a courtroom and saying they are ‘jokes’ does not make a comment excusable…that is not an accepted excuse even in grade school any longer.
    It is disturbing that others would try to dismiss this as a vendetta when the accusations clearly warrant review.
    I expect it is time to PURGE THE BURGE!

  • ken

    Keep up the great work Will, GET RID OF Burge!

  • Fedupintheburbs

    This story is 100% hogwash! Will has a long standing fued/dislike of Judge Burge. Welcome to the world of Lorain County Politics: Wasting taxpayer money…..(it’s what most of them do best.) Dennis Will, please do us all a favor and stop this ridiculousness!!

  • Stan K

    I know it is hard for some of you in the “Burge” fan club to absorb what exactly is going on here…but one thing is for sure. The prosecutor OBVIOUSLY has enough dirt on Judge Burge to move forward with this investigation.Regardless of how many of Burges fans come out of the walls, Dennis Will knows more than you think and he probably has an “ace in the hole” Burge knows this,he knows they got him,but he is still going to put up a fight and waste our tax dollars.

    • Fedupintheburbs

      Of course we know what’s going on lol…..a political feud (oh boo-hoo) played out with our tax dollars…….Lorain County Politics: it’s a joke and nobody’s laughing……

  • No Justice Only Law

    They should go through his previous cases and review facts and evidence and see if there was any type of discrimination when it came to sentencing. Perhaps a white person that committed the same exact crime received no jail time whereas a black person received months or years prison time for the exact same charges? If there is proof then it would end all the doubt. I can’t comment about the sexual comments or other slurs because I was not there.

  • Sis Delish

    @sisdelish:disqus Supports Burge.

  • Bill

    I hope this is the first step in removing this a-hole from office. Anyone who has a picture of Che Guevara (Murderer) and James Filliagi (Murderer) on his office wall is enough reason for me to have him removed. Just a couple of numerous reasons.
    Hopefully after that someone else can find enough reason to have Will removed also. One can only hope seeing as how the voters of Lorain County don’t seem to have the intelligence to do it through the voting process.

  • SniperFire

    You sleep until about 2 everyday, don’t you? LOL