INMATE ABUSE CASE Lawyer claims misconduct
The ex-major rejected a 41-to-51-month sentence and goes to trial next week.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The lawyer for a Mahoning County deputy sheriff who said he kicked an inmate doesn't want a jury to hear those incriminating remarks.
In an 18-page motion filed Monday in Cleveland federal court, Youngstown Atty. Scott R. Cochran wants all statements made by Deputy Ryan Strange -- to prosecutors, the FBI and a grand jury -- suppressed. Cochran said his client was not clearly advised that he was a target of the investigation when the statements were made Jan. 27 and 28, 2004.
Strange, 28, of Vienna, and four co-defendants charged with inmate abuse are set for trial on Feb. 22. The trial follows the Feb. 14 trial of Michael Budd, demoted from major to deputy after being indicted in October 2004 and charged with inmate abuse.
Budd, at a final pretrial Monday afternoon, rejected the government's plea deal that carried with it a sentence of 41 to 51 months in prison, said his Youngstown lawyer, Martin F. Yavorcik.
Both cases are assigned to U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells.
Cochran said in his motion that "there is evidence of prosecutorial misconduct and bad faith in this case." He said Strange's statements were obtained through coercive tactics, abuse of process and misrepresentation of Strange's status as a nontarget of the investigation.
The case is being prosecuted by Steven M. Dettelbach and Kristy Parker.
Cochran said Strange was not informed by the government that his status had changed from nontarget to target out of fear that the deputy would invoke his right against self-incrimination or ask to speak to his lawyer.
Cochran's motion contains snippets of Strange's incriminating statements about the beating of then-inmate Tawhon Easterly in December 2001. Easterly was beaten after he punched Deputy Christina Kachaylo, the government said.
Strange, according to an FBI interview, said Easterly was escorted from his cell to the gym. Strange believed this was done so that Kachaylo would have an opportunity to "get her licks in at Easterly so that she could go home and sleep well," court papers show.
Strange also said he applied "four or five leg strikes" to Easterly after Deputy Raymond Hull (also under indictment) took Easterly to the ground. Strange's kicks weren't used to control the inmate but to get back at him for hitting a guard, the motion states.
Dettelbach's questioning of Strange, also included in the motion, shows that Strange was asked if he understood that his answers could change his nontarget status and that no promises had been made in return for his testimony. Strange said he understood.
Cochran said Dettelbach took careful steps to outline for Strange that things could change but misled him into thinking that things had not changed. The lawyer said it's also clear that Strange did not understand what Dettelbach explained.
Cochran wants Judge Wells to take into consideration what led up to Strange's statements. The lawyer said his client showed up at 7 a.m. Jan. 27, 2004, to testify at the grand jury but, after three hours, was asked if he would take a polygraph. He was taken to an FBI office and, from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., was interrogated for most of the time, not given food or drink and not permitted to leave to use the restroom, Cochran said.
Strange, during that time, was not told of his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent or provided any warnings, Cochran said in court papers. The deputy had been taken there under the guise of a polygraph, the lawyer said.
The next day, Jan. 28, 2004, Strange testified before the grand jury. Strange repeated his incriminating statements, under the misconception that he was not a target or suspect, his lawyer said in the motion to suppress the comments.
"Mr. Strange was led to believe that his status would only change if he provided new information to the grand jury that had not already been provided," Cochran wrote in his motion.
Before the grand jury testimony, Strange told an FBI agent and Parker, the federal prosecutor, that he wanted to correct some statements that he'd made the previous day because of the conditions of his interrogation. Strange, however, was interrogated again and enticed to restate the same inaccurate information, Cochran said.
"Numerous coercive elements were at work on Mr. Strange that overwhelmed his free will," Cochran wrote. "As a result, all statements made while under the grand jury subpoena should be suppressed."
In a related matter, Mark Dixon, one of Strange's codefendants, wants a separate trial. The motion, filed last week, is pending.
Dixon's Cleveland lawyer, Henry F. DeBaggis, said he received discovery material in the case, including Strange's grand jury testimony and FBI interview reports. DeBaggis said the documents show that Strange made statements which are potentially incriminating against himself and Dixon.