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MAHONING COUNTY Deputy sheriff fights to keep evi dence separated



Published: Tue, January 4, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The sexual battery case is set for trial in April, two years after the indictment.

YOUNGSTOWN -- Mark Dixon's lawyer doesn't want evidence from a sexual battery case pending in state court to be used next month at the ex-Mahoning County deputy sheriff's inmate-abuse trial in federal court.

Dixon, 32, of Youngstown, was removed from the sheriff's department payroll in March 2003, when he was indicted on a charge of sexual battery. He was originally placed on paid leave in November 2002, after being accused of having sex with Natalie Ice, an inmate at the Mahoning County jail.

That case is set for trial in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court in April. Ice, 32, of East Liverpool, also filed a civil lawsuit against Dixon and that case is set for trial June 6 in Youngstown federal court.

Dixon and three deputies indicted in July 2004 are set for trial in U.S. District Court, Cleveland, on Feb. 22. The government said that three years ago they beat inmate Tawhon Easterly, a violation of his civil rights.

That case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells.

Lawyer's request

Dixon's Cleveland lawyer, Henry F. DeBaggis, filed a motion Dec. 29 asking that Judge Wells prohibit the government from using at the inmate-abuse trial any testimony or forensic evidence gathered in the sexual battery case. DeBaggis doesn't want Steven M. Dettelbach, an assistant U.S. attorney, to even refer to the sex case, saying it is unrelated and could be prejudicial.

DeBaggis said in his motion that he was informed by Dettelbach that the government may seek to use evidence from the sexual-abuse case.

The use of such evidence not related to a federal defendant's charge is commonly called "other bad acts."

"Included in the state case is laboratory analysis of fluid found in the victim's medical cell unit," Dettelbach has said in court papers. "In addition, during the initial investigation, Dixon allegedly directed that physical evidence be destroyed. Federal investigative authorities are closely monitoring that prosecution."

A search warrant return for Dixon's home, filed in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court in November 2002, shows that investigators seized a pair of his deputy uniform pants, underwear and two uniform shirts. A swab of Dixon's mouth was taken for DNA analysis.

The sheriff's detective who obtained the search warrant said Dixon allegedly forced Ice to perform oral sex on him in her cell.

DeBaggis said the extreme prejudice that will result from the sexual battery case evidence far outweighs any exploratory value. Also, he said Dixon maintains his innocence in the state case and has yet to go to trial.

"The proposed evidence will only serve to infer bad character," DeBaggis said in his objection.

Others

Ice was jailed Oct. 5, 2002, on a charge of soliciting -- her first -- according to Youngstown Municipal clerk of court records. She was found guilty Nov. 21, 2002, and given 60 days in jail, with 48 suspended and credit for 12 served.

Dixon's co-defendants in the inmate-beating case, meanwhile, are Deputies Raymond Hull III, 35, of Poland; John Rivera, 32, of Youngstown; and Ryan C. Strange, 28, of Vienna. They have been on unpaid leave since indicted in July 2004.

Three others have pleaded guilty to their part in the December 2003 beating -- Ronald Kaschak of Austintown, who resigned as a deputy, and retired supervisors Bill DeLuca of Youngstown and Ronald Denson of Austintown.

Michael Budd, 43, of Boardman is the ex-major the government said ordered the beating of Easterly. Budd was demoted to deputy and placed on paid leave when indicted in October 2004.

His trial is scheduled for Feb. 14 in Cleveland federal court.




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