Second woman accuses Prosecutor Kevin Rings of misconduct
Misconduct trial continues to fourth day today
The third day of the trial for Washington County Prosecutor Kevin Rings included testimony from a second woman accusing him of misconduct.
The proceedings also started and finished with significant blows to both the prosecution and defense.
Rings, 56, is facing two misdemeanor charges of coercion and sexual imposition due to alleged interactions with Amy Davis, 33, of Belpre, who at the time was both the victim in one case Rings was prosecuting and the defendant in another.
The prosecution called four more witnesses Wednesday, while the defense called its first. One more witness is scheduled to testify for the defense when the trial resumes today. Rings is not expected to take the stand.
Wednesday’s proceedings started with Dennis McNamara, defense attorney for Rings, asking the court to not allow the testimony of Heather Clark, a woman Rings reportedly helped during the dissolution of her marriage. It was determined that Clark would be allowed to testify, when Judge Patricia Cosgrove ruled that the testimony could show a trend of Rings talking to emotionally distraught women involved in legal cases.
However, the prosecution was dealt a blow later in the day when it was determined that only 35 of the hundreds of texts between Rings and Davis would be admissible as evidence, as they were the ones that had been specifically addressed and verified in court.
The texts shared between Rings and Clark were also limited.
McNamara said he wanted all the text messages between Clark and Rings removed due to the fact that there were many pornographic texts among them.
“It paints Mr. Rings in such a bad light that the jury can’t say ‘not guilty,'” McNamara said.
Cosgrove didn’t allow the more graphic texts into the trial, but did allow approximately 30 of the texts that potentially showed coercion.
Clark began her testimony talking about a November 2016 meeting with the Washington County Magistrate, Shoshanna M. Brooker, about an upcoming divorce that her then-husband failed to attend. While outside her office, she said she saw Rings, a friend of 15 to 20 years previously, talking to another person near her. She said they made eye contact and acknowledged their previous friendship by giving each other a hug. Clark said the conversation ended amicably with Rings telling her to contact him sometime.
“I was hoping he could help me,” she said. “I sat on it for three weeks.”
After that, she said she sent Rings an email describing the circumstances of her divorce and was hinting for help with the proceedings from Rings. She said Rings texted her back a very short time later.
“The first 20 to 30 minutes went well. We talked about my life the last 15 to 20 years,” she said. “He made me feel like he was listening.”
Clark said the texts became more sexually suggestive a short time later that day.
“If I do help you, what will you do for me?” Rings texted her.
Clark said she did send him a photo of herself in her undergarments and continued to flirt with Rings via text.
“I wanted to make him happy,” she said, adding that she hoped Rings would help her with her case.
Clark said Rings did inform her that he did talk to both Brooker and attorney Eric Fowler on her behalf.
“He said he knew he shouldn’t do that,” she said.
Clark said that the next time she went in front of the magistrate, she noticed she thought things went more in her favor.
Clark said she and Rings continued to text until her divorce was final in April of 2017. Clark said that several times during this period Rings let her know that she owed him.
“I knew exactly what he wanted,” Clark said.
Clark said that even though Rings strongly persisted, she never met him alone because she knew a sexual encounter would happen.
Clark said that after the divorce was final, she and Rings stopped texting, but she couldn’t stop thinking about how bad she felt after the interaction with him.
“I knew I couldn’t be the only one,” she said.
Clark said in October of 2017 she saw leaked texts between Rings and Davis on social media.
“It was almost verbatim of what he sent me,” she said.
Also testifying Wednesday was Washington County Dog Warden and deputy Kelly McGilton, who said that through a common acquaintance, she was notified about the texts between Clark and Rings, and after an interview with Clark, sent them to her superiors.
Later, Jennifer Comisford, special investigator for the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, testified that after receiving an extraction report that showed the texts between Rings and Davis and security video footage of Davis visiting Rings’ office on July 6, 2017, she came to Washington County to interview Rings on Aug. 24, 2017. She said during the interview Rings said that the pair had exchanged texts and that he had received pictures of Davis, but didn’t send any of himself. She said Rings also said that Davis had been flirty with him, but it was never to the degree of “let’s get freaky together.”
Rings also confirmed to Comisford that he had met Davis on July 6, but said there was no intimate contact. Comisford said she then informed Rings that she actually had the security camera footage of the prosecutor’s office and questioned Rings about the state of Davis’ attire.
“Her shirt appeared to be unbuttoned,” she said she told Rings.
She said Rings denied doing it and said that Davis must have unbuttoned her own shirt after leaving his office and before getting in view of the camera.
The prosecution’s case wrapped up with the expert testimony of Andy Wilson, senior adviser of Criminal Justice Policy for the governor’s office and former Clark County prosecutor. Wilson outlined the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct for prosecutors and said Rings shouldn’t have sent text messages or met with Davis alone.
“You don’t put yourself in a position where you can be a witness in your own case,” he said.
The defense’s first witness Wednesday was the mother-in-law of Davis, Violet Marie Davis. Violet testified that Davis had been planning on sleeping with Rings in order to secure a better result for herself and Violet’s son, who was also facing drug charges.
“She had a plan to get her stuff out of trouble and to get my son out of prison,” Violet said. “She was going to get some money out of this.”
Violet said she confronted Rings at an April 2017 pre-trial hearing in Marietta Municipal Court for Davis about the possibility that Davis was trying to have intimate relationship with Rings.
“I bluntly asked him if you were (having sex with) Amy Davis,” she said.
Violet said Rings said no.
The defense then called the last witness of the day, Eric Fowler, defense attorney for Davis during her 2017 trial for drug trafficking. He testified he did give Rings permission to have a meeting without him there, but under cross examination said he didn’t give him permission to text Davis.
The fourth day of the trial starts today at 9 a.m. at the Washington County Courthouse.
Rings faces up to 150 days in jail and up to a $1,250 fine if convicted of the two charges.