Judge named to special grand jury

STEUBENVILLE – Summit County retired Judge Patricia Ann Cosgrove was appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court to oversee a special grand jury further investigating persons involved in the Steubenville rape case.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced the calling of a special grand jury after retired Juvenile Judge Thomas Lipps found Trent Mays, 17, of Bloomingdale and Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, of Steubenville delinquent on rape charges in Jefferson County Juvenile Court in connection with an incident involving an underage girl on Aug. 11-12. Mays also was found guilty of a charge of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material for allegedly having a picture of the 16-year-old victim in an outgoing text message on his cell phone.

Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr., who was presiding over this term of the grand jury, asked the Supreme Court to appoint a special judge.

“These nameless bloggers, while having produced no evidence of a cover-up, have managed to assemble quite a following locally, nationally and internationally. For this reason I believe no local officials should have anything to do with the grand jury proceedings proposed by the attorney general. It is therefore my request that the Supreme Court appoint some other judge, hopefully as far away as possible to preside over these proceedings,” Bruzzese stated in his letter.

“In the event that any adults are indicted for any offense whether felony or misdemeanor it would be my suggestion that the Supreme Court be prepared to appoint out-of-town judges in those cases also,” concluded Bruzzese.

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, in her appointment of Cosgrove, said Cosgrove will preside over the grand jury and hear all matters arising from those proceedings and conclude any proceedings in which she participated.

A judge does not sit in on the grand jury when the prosecutor presents witnesses to the grand jury. The judge can handle matters in which a witness refuses to testify, The judge also accepts the report of the grand jury before it is filed with the clerk of courts.

Bruzzese becomes the third county official to step aside in the case. County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin and Juvenile Judge Sam Kerr also removed themselves from proceedings citing conflicts.

DeWine in his press conference Sunday said agents with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation identified 43 individuals who attended at least one of the two parties. Investigators interviewed 27 of these individuals, while 16 refused to cooperate.

“A grand jury is an investigative tool that is uniquely suited to ensure fairness and to complete this investigation. And this community needs assurance that no stone has been left unturned in our search for the truth,” DeWine stated.

DeWine said indictments may not be returned as a result of the meeting of the grand jury.

Cosgrove is no stranger to high-profile cases. In 2011, she handled the trial of Kelley Williams-Bolar, an Akron woman convicted of falsifying documents to enroll her daughters in the Copley-Fairlawn schools from 2006 to 2008. Gov. John Kasich later reduced the felony convictions to misdemeanors.

In 2005, Cosgrove convicted a prominent Akron restaurant owner’s wife of aiding in the drive-by shooting death of a former lover by the third member of a love triangle. Cosgrove sentenced Cynthia George to 20 years to life following the nonjury trial. Two years later, George was released from prison after the 9th Ohio District Court of Appeals in Akron overturned Cosgrove’s decision, ruling the judge lacked sufficient evidence to convict George.

(Law can be contacted at mlaw@heraldstaronline.com. The Associated Press also contributed to this report.)