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Complaint against prosecutor more than justified

On Tuesday, 12 Washington County attorneys stepped forward and filed a complaint against Washington County Prosecutor Kevin Rings, who was convicted of coercion on Friday in a case involving a sexual relationship with a woman who was both the defendant in a drug case and victim in a kidnapping case.

The complaint from the attorneys, as well as Washington County’s sheriff, asks that Rings be removed from office.

We thank them, and agree with them.

If a judge rules in this civil case to do so, Rings would lose his position as prosecutor.

We hope that before this case against him can play out, he steps down from office. We believe this – or at the very least a leave of absence while the criminal case was resolved– should have occurred months ago when Rings was indicted. We think him continuing to handle cases for the county now puts all those cases in jeopardy, as well as the ones Rings prosecuted before allegations against him came to light.

Every case may need to be examined to determine if he had inappropriate interactions with a witness, a defendant or a victim. While he was convicted of coercion as it related to only one woman, there was testimony from another woman at his trial that he attempted to offer legal aid in return for sexual favors. Other instances were brought up regarding alleged improper behavior with an intern and with multiple other women. This very well could have been a trend. There could be other victims who received special treatment or retribution regarding their legal proceedings.

Rings has handled many, many cases over his decades-long tenure in the prosecutor’s office, some of the most serious of cases including murder and crimes against children. The fact that he now may have offered up an easy chance for a successful appeal in any of those cases makes us sick.

We’ve said before that Rings’ actions violated our trust, but it goes beyond that. He has created a potential legal mess that could have serious ramifications.

Those who have been victims in criminal cases handled by Rings should be furious.

Rings will be sentenced May 16 and is eligible to receive up to 90 days in jail. Both the seriousness of his crime and the abuse of his authority should support a severe sentence, rather than his position being considered a factor for leniency.

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