Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Attorney for indicted Wildlife Division official defends client
The attorney handling one of the six indicted Ohio Division of Wildlife officials is baffled by the charges brought against his client.
Attorney Michael Cassity of Mount Orab in Brown County is representing James Lehman, the Wildlife Division’s law enforcement administrator, who has been placed on paid administrative leave.
Lehman is charged with one count of obstructing justice and one count of complicity of obstructing justice. Both are fifth-degree felonies.
The indictment against Lehman and five other Wildlife Division officials stems from an alleged incident in which the state wildlife officer assigned to Brown County - Allan Wright - was said to have allowed a South Carolina wildlife officer to use his Ohio address in order to obtain an Ohio hunting license on Nov. 5, 2006.
It is alleged that Lehman and four other high-ranking Wildlife Division officials should have handled the Wright incident differently as a criminal matter and not as an administrative matter that resulted in a verbal reprimand for Wright.
“What I’ve seen of the limited investigation I’ve been able to do would indicate there is no merit to these charges. I just don’t understand why the charges were brought. They’re talking about complicity; trying to break the law. At least my client was following what he believed was policy. Certainly when the (Ohio) Inspector General got involved there was total cooperation with my client. He participated in the Inspector General investigation and told them what he knew. He wasn’t out to hide anything,” Cassity said.
Cassity said too that the matter should be tossed out of Brown County Common Pleas Court for lack of evidence of guilt.
“I do; maybe even more than a possibility. But right now this case is in its infancy with a lot of information that has to be discovered by the defense. I don’t see, however, there is sufficient evidence to support these charges,” Cassity said.
Cassity said as well that when an attorney is experienced in criminal work he or she has a “pretty good sense of what the evidence might be about” and that sense points to a lot of nothing in this matter.
Similarly, Cassity says he is “extremely impressed” with Lehman.
“I’ve got pretty good instincts and my impression is that he is straight and plays by the rules. You know, it’s tough on him with more than 20 years with the Wildlife Division. He’s an honorable man. He was just doing his job the way he believed his job should be done,” Cassity said.
Cassity noted that he will appear before the Brown County Common Pleas Court next week along with Brown County Prosecutor Jessica A. Little for a pre-trial hearing.
At this hearing - not normally attended by the defendant - a second pre-trial date may be set as well as possibly the actual trial date.
“I don’t expect a whole lot except whether there’s been an exchange of discovery, basically must be provided by the prosecutor, possibly Friday or Monday,” Cassity said.
Efforts are being made to contact the other attorneys representing the remaining defendants.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn JFrischkorn@News-Herald.com The News-Herald Blogs: Outdoors with Frischkorn: April 2010