The Columbus Dispatch

SOME THINK PROSECUTOR GOT A BREAK

Saturday, December 1, 2001
NEWS   07C

By Kevin Mayhood
Dispatch Staff Reporter

Illustration: Photo

A Franklin County assistant prosecutor's disorderly conduct case -- and speculation that he received better treatment than the average Joe -- has been the buzz of the courthouse.

Trent Turner, 33, who has been a prosecutor for six years, pleaded no contest to the fourth- degree misdemeanor charge on Thursday and was fined $100.

But some say Turner might have gotten off easy the night of Nov. 19, when police responded to a fight at BW-3's Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar on S. High Street.

Turner reportedly was drunk and had a bloody nose and a swollen lip when police arrived. Officers said he refused to leave the bar and pulled them to the floor kicking and screaming. Police had to douse him with pepper spray before they took him to a cruiser.

Turner shouted at officers, "I'm a county prosecutor. You can't do this,'' and told them he'd have their badges.

"Every case is different, but my experience is that people who wrestle around with police and are drunk generally get a resisting, a disorderly conduct and may get an assault charge,'' said defense attorney Todd Barstow.

For a drunken bar brawler to receive all three charges is so common that defense attorneys refer to them as the "holy trinity'' or "the trilogy.''

"I don't often see people who are obnoxious to police officers getting breaks,'' Barstow said.

But Gerald Sunbury, who has also defended clients charged in such cases, said Turner's injuries -- not his job -- might have helped him.

"Most police officers, if a guy has been injured, go a little easier on him than normally,'' Sunbury said. "They probably took into consideration the guy lost the fight.''

Turner's troubles might not be over. The Ohio Supreme Court's Office of the Disciplinary Counsel, which investigates allegations of wrongdoing against lawyers and determines whether discipline is necessary, could examine the incident.

Any lawyer or judge convicted of a felony is suspended from the bar temporarily and his case investigated by the disciplinary counsel, which could seek further discipline, said Jay Wuebbold, spokesman for the Ohio Supreme Court.

"A misdemeanor may or may not be reported to the disciplinary counsel,'' he said.

Former Disciplinary Counsel Geoffrey Stern, who now is in private practice, said a lawyer's conduct outside his legal practice can warrant discipline.

"The disciplinary system isn't based solely on the charge but the actions of the individual,'' Stern said.

"If a lawyer is charged with resisting arrest, that's automatic. But generally, if a lawyer or judge does not react to a direct order of law enforcement, there's an issue there. We are officers of the court.''

He and others said the counsel or the Columbus Bar Association, which also investigates allegations against lawyers, would consider all the underlying facts before deciding whether to recommend discipline.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien suspended Turner from work the day after the incident and said he plans to discipline him. He declined to elaborate.

City Prosecutor Steve McIntosh, who refused a plea bargain in the case, said it appeared that Turner got his break when police charged him.

The only way he would have added to the charge, he said, is if the bar owner had come to him asking for more. Then McIntosh would have asked police whether additional charges were appropriate.

An arresting officer said the police stand by the charge. Sherry Mercurio, spokeswoman for Columbus police, said city prosecutors could have added charges.

Turner also might have spent less time in jail than the average barroom brawler.

After he was arrested, Turner called lawyer Sam Shamansky, who called Judge H. William Pollitt at home to get Turner released from jail before he spent the night there. Typically, someone arrested at night stays in jail overnight before their case is presented to a judge and the judge sets bail or releases them.

Turner was in jail about a half-hour, according to court paperwork.

Sunbury said defense attorneys will occasionally call judges at home to get clients out quickly.

"But, we have to make certain we don't abuse the privilege,'' he said. "Because he was a prosecutor, I probably would have made that call.''

kmayhood@dispatch.com


Caption:
Gerald Sunbury said being injured might have helped Trent Turner.



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