Probe of county prosecutor voted top story of ’17

RINGS

RINGS

A local case involving the county prosecutor has echoed a national movement shining the spotlight on men in positions of power accused of taking advantage of working or personal relationships with women. The investigation of Washington County Prosecutor Kevin Rings was voted the top local story of 2017 by readers of The Marietta Times.

The #MeToo campaign that has taken over social media and dominated mainstream media for the past several months has involved high profile men accused of sexual assault, sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior in the work place. Big names, such as Matt Lauer, Bill O’Reilly, Harvey Weinstein and Al Franken, have all been taken to task for incidences that involve inappropriate touching, comments or abuse.

“A lot of times it is out of fear that women don’t speak out — fear of harm, of losing a job, fear of accusations coming back on the victim and fear of embarrassment,” said Annelle Edwards, a social work lecturer at Ohio University and former director of the EVE shelter in Marietta. “I think this movement has given women a voice, there is power in numbers, and it releases the stigma (of reporting abuse).”

The Marietta Times reported in October that Rings was being investigated by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and that a special judge and prosecutor had been assigned to preside over the matter in court as it moves forward. The case involves Amy L. Davis, 32, of 34 Cherry Hill Lane, Belpre, who first reported to the Vienna Police Department’s representative on the Parkersburg Violent Crime and Narcotics Task Force that while she was in Rings’ office on July 6, Rings allegedly touched her “inappropriately.” The report also states that Rings and Davis exchanged text messages, many of which could be deemed inappropriate given his position.

Davis was both a victim working with the prosecutor’s office in an assault and kidnapping case from March of this year and was convicted of trafficking in methamphetamine, a second-degree felony, on June 30 for her part in a drug dealing operation set up in

Marietta’s Norwood area in April.

While Rings is a public official and is ultimately accountable to the voters who put him in office, there are channels within the legal system to investigate complaints against attorneys in both the public and private sectors, according to Maggie Ostrowski, director of media and public relations with the Ohio State Bar Association.

“In general, complaints are initiated by either the Office of Disciplinary Counsel or a Certified Grievance Committee. The OSBA has a Certified Grievance Committee and there are 31 local bar associations that have Certified Grievance Committees,” she explained.

On its website, bpc.ohio.gov, the Board of Professional Conduct offers a step-by-step guide to the disciplinary process once a grievance is filed, which could include being heard by the Supreme Court of Ohio or outright dismissed. The board acts as the trial court in grievance cases, according to Ostrowski.

Currently, she said she does not know of any pending grievances against Rings.

“Neither the Office of Disciplinary Counsel nor any of the certified grievance committees are able to comment either way, but these would be separate from any oversight processes designed to hold public officials accountable, such as the state BCI, the Inspector General and local law enforcement,” Ostrowski said.

Edwards said that one positive that has come out of the #Metoo movement is that more companies look to be implementing more detailed harassment training.

“Everyone who works at OU just had to complete online training and it was very extensive,” she said. “We all are required to report incidences of harassment.”

Dorcas Taylor Jones, communications specialist with the Office of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, said that “the investigation is ongoing and there is no new information to provide.”

Rings declined to comment on the case and Eric Fowler, an attorney representing Davis in the methamphetamine case, did not return calls. The Times last reported that Davis was at a drug rehabilitation center in Portsmouth as part of her sentence.

Rings has stated publicly that he has no plans to step down as prosecutor while the investigation is ongoing.

Top stories

of 2017

Top local stories of 2017 as voted on by readers at mariettatimes.com

¯ 1. Washington County prosecutor investigated for sexual imposition, 111 votes (36.16 percent).

¯ 2. A plastic storage facility in Parkersburg is the site of a massive fire, causing health concerns across the valley, 92 votes (29.97 percent).

¯ 3. The opioid epidemic rages on in the Mid-Ohio valley, 42 votes (13.68 percent).

¯ 4. Former highway patrol commander indicted by a federal grand jury, 19 votes (6.9 percent).

¯ 5. Warren Local Schools bond issue for new school construction passed, 15 votes (4.89 percent).

¯ 6. The city and county continue to battle over sewering Muskingum Township, 13 votes (4.23 percent).

¯ 7. Convicted murderer Mitchell Ruble and convicted sexual predator Eugene Robert Anderson both die in prison, 11 votes (3.58 percent).

¯ 8. Residential rehabilitation center Oriana House opens in Reno, 2 votes (0.65 percent).

¯ 9/10. Washington County voters pass a levy for mental health and addiction services, 1 vote (0.33 percent); WSCC welcomes a new president as the new head of MC begins his first full year, 1 vote (0.33 percent).

The top 10 news stories accessed on MariettaTimes.com in 2017

1. New places to eat coming, May 4, about plans for IHOP and Gran Ranchero openings.

2. Area grocery stores closing, April 25, about the closure of the Food 4 Less in Marietta and the IGA in Newport.

3. 4-year-old boy in critical condition from falling limb, May 2, a brief about Klayton Johnson of Waterford being struck by a limb while at a campground with his family. He later died from his injuries.

4. Wanted woman arrested in New Mat drug raid, April 11, about the arrest of Lynsey Erb, of St. Marys, who was wanted for posing a corpse on someone’s porch the previous summer. She was arrested during a raid at the home of Timothy Dunn, of 605 Fourth St., that turned up meth, heroin and pills.

5. Auction Fenton’s final chapter, March 21, a preview of upcoming Fenton auctions and plans to demolish the factory.

6. Power plant to be built at Ormet location, April 11, about plans to open the Hannibal Port Power Project by late 2020.

7. Dogs in the woods, May 4, a story about 23 hounds along Ohio 60 in Morgan County who had drawn concern from neighbors and passerby. Officials found no health or safety violations.

8. Police need help identifying body found in river, Oct. 17, about a woman’s body pulled from the river near the Marietta Harbor. She was later identified as Cheryl Barth of Devola.

9. IHOP restaurant coming to Marietta, May 26, an update on the status of the restaurant.

10. Transformed man sent to prison, Feb. 17, a story on the sentencing of William Mitchell, of Little Hocking, who took part in an armed home invasion. In court, he spoke about since getting married, having a baby, finding a full-time job and staying drug-free.

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