| The Columbus Dispatch
A Democratic lawmaker wants the Ohio Supreme Court to force a state trooper to redo his investigation into an altercation between herself and two Democratic staffers.
“We believe the State Highway patrol did not do their job and was too narrowly focused on the charges of obstructing official business and disorderly conduct,” attorney Nick Owens said. “They should have expanded the criminal statutes they looked at.”
He alleged in his eight-page motion to Ohio’s highest court that the crimes of unlawful restraint and intimidation should have been investigated, and Rep. Bernadine Kennedy Kent, D-Columbus, should have been named as a victim.
“I filed this mandamus action to not only preserve my crime victim rights but also the crime victim rights of all Ohioans,” Kennedy Kent said in a statement.
On May 22, 2019, Kennedy Kent tried to enter a room at the statehouse, but two Democratic staffers (Sarah Cherry, the attorney for House Democrats, and Deputy Chief of Staff Andy DiPalma) blocked the doorway.
The meeting was for House Democrats only, and the caucus voted Kennedy Kent out of their group a year earlier.
Kennedy Kent alleged she was “forcibly pushed back” by Cherry, but the staffers disputed that claim, saying the representative was the one who initiated physical contact.
A state trooper investigated and turned his report over to the Columbus City Attorney’s Office, which declined to file charges against the staffers for both obstruction and disorderly conduct.
Owens said that’s fine, but the trooper should have also looked at unlawful restraint and intimidation — two crimes that require a specific victim. Disorderly conduct and obstructing official business are crimes against the public.
“We think they were selective in their charges so that Rep. Kennedy Kent wouldn’t be the victim,” Owens said.
Lt. Craig Cvetan, the spokesman for highway patrol, didn’t respond to a request for comment about how the agency investigated this particular case. But he did reiterate his belief that the trooper was right not to name Kennedy Kent as a victim for the two charges.
“In criminal cases involving a crime against the public or an office, which both these were, society is always the victim and not an individual person,” Cvetan wrote in an email.
Why does being named a victim matter?
In November 2017, Ohioans overwhelmingly voted to amend the state constitution and give crime victims specific rights in the criminal justice process.
It’s called Marsy’s Law, and it required law enforcement, prosecutors and courts to all notify victims of their rights. And it emphasized the rights to privacy and security for victims — two things Kennedy Kent previously told The Dispatch she felt she needed before she could return to the statehouse.
The Democratic lawmaker hasn’t attended any committee meetings or taken any votes since May 2019.