The Columbus Dispatch


Saturday, June 5, 1999
NEWS   01B

By Kevin Mayhood
Dispatch Staff Reporter

Illustration: Photo

A Columbus Police sergeant plans to fight allegations that he repeatedly sexually assaulted three female relatives from 1985 until last year.

"He will plead not guilty'' when he is indicted, his attorney, Sam Shamansky, said in court.

Ellis L. Jennings, who has been a Columbus officer for 18 years, is charged with 28 crimes: 15 counts of gross sexual imposition, five counts of sexual battery and eight counts of rape. The charges say Jennings, 46, used threats of force to coerce the females into acts ranging from fondling to intercourse.

Shamansky said the women are now in their 20s. Police affidavits fail to list the ages, saying only that one girl was molested repeatedly between the ages of 15 and 17.

Jennings stood in Franklin County Municipal Court yesterday with his hands clasped in front of him, shaking his head at times.

Columbus and Gahanna police worked together to investigate the offenses, which occurred in Gahanna, police records say. Jennings lives at 209 Moorfield Dr. in Gahanna, but the abuses did not take place at that address, the reports say.

Because the women were minors when the alleged crimes occurred, the standard six-year statute of limitations on felonies apparently has not run, said Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien. "The Ohio Supreme Court has held there is a rule that the statute of limitations does not begin running until a responsible adult learns of the offenses.''

Columbus and Gahanna investigators would not say what led them to begin investigating Jennings. They said the matter is still under investigation.

During his career, Jennings received written commendations and compliments from the public for his actions and behavior in a hostage situation, making arrests and aiding an accident victim.

He also received two written reprimands for sexual harassment in 1987. An internal-affairs investigation concluded he made sexist comments toward female officers.

Jennings has worked on patrol as a detective. He was promoted to sergeant in September 1997. He most recently had been working third shift in the radio room.

Some police who worked with Jennings were stunned by the charges; they said he was a "quiet'' and "cordial'' officer.

"You'd like to believe that this would never happen, that someone you work with would be charged with such crimes,'' said Sgt. Earl Smith, Columbus Police spokesman. "It's crucial the public knows we took the information we had and filed charges we found supportable by the evidence and we will prosecute.''

Shamansky asked for a recognizance bond to let Jennings be released from jail without posting bail. "He's known about this investigation for more than two months, and he didn't try to leave,'' Shamansky said.

Judge Mark S. Froehlich set bail at $700,000. Jennings was in Franklin County jail, in protective custody.

Fred Squillante / Dispatch
Ellis L. Jennings, left, and attorney Bill Meeks appear in court. Jennings will fight charges of assaulting female relatives, attorney Sam Shamansky said.
Allegations of slander

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