By Ed Runyan
Hubbard’s law director says the city has tried to resolve a years-old horn-honking problem involving Liberty Street resident Garrick Krlich and his wife, but Krlich is not satisfied.
Now the Special Prosecutions Unit of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office will get involved, bringing a special prosecutor to town.
“The attorney general has offered a special prosecutor, and that’s what we’re going to get for Mr. Krlich,” said Hubbard Law Director Mark A. Villano. “We couldn’t seem to do enough to satisfy Mr. Krlich, so we decided to go to someone removed from the situation.”
Jill DelGreco, public information officer for Attorney General Mike DeWine, confirmed that the Special Prosecutions Unit has agreed to appoint a special prosecutor to the Krlich case “to review the local investigation and determine if charges should be filed.”
Villano requested the assistance Oct. 14, DelGreco said.
Krlich has said that certain groups of people have been targeting his house for horn-honking at all hours of the day and night for six years.
Krlich said failure of the Hubbard Police Department and the city’s attorneys to prosecute the cases caused him to turn to the Trumbull County Common Pleas Court, where he has filed dozens of civil stalking protection orders against individuals he recorded on equipment at his house engaged in horn honking.
Krlich said he filed or re-filed 720 horn-honking complaints last week with the office of Atty. Robert Johnson, prosecutor for Girard Municipal Court, that he believes are allowable under the time limits in Ohio law, which he said is two years.
The Special Prosecutions Unit assists local county prosecutors with the preparation and presentation of major felony cases, complex white-collar investigations, murder, child sexual assault, allegations of criminal wrongdoing by public officials and when prosecutors ask for assistance when there is a lack of local resources to effectively handle certain cases, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office website says.
Villano, who has been law director close to two years, said Krlich isn’t happy that the police department hasn’t filed charges against more of the people he has recorded, but Ohio law requires a standard of proof that Krlich frequently is unable to provide.
Krlich turns in DVDs containing video and audio evidence, but frequently the person involved can’t be seen or the horn-honking isn’t discernible. In those cases, it’s impossible to file charges, he said.
He knows for sure of “three or four” cases in which charges were filed starting late last year and ending about eight months later. There were other charges filed as well, but he didn’t know how many, Villano said.
The three to four charges Villano mentioned required about 250 man-hours of work by the Hubbard Police Department to complete, he said.
Hubbard Police Chief Jim Taafe and the secretary for Atty. Robert Johnson, prosecutor in Girard Municipal Court, who prosecutes Hubbard cases, referred questions about the matter to Villano.
The Hubbard Police Department has at times stationed a police officer near Krlich’s home to try to catch people honking, but that requires a type of staffing the department cannot provide, Villano said.
In Common Pleas Court, Magistrate Patrick McCarthy has approved civil protection orders in 12 of the 25 cases Krlich has filed and denied the other 13. The orders generally also contain restrictions against stalking, harassing or bothering Garrick Krlich or his wife.
Krlich has five other civil stalking protection orders pending.
Villani noted he has been “bending the rules” on Krlich’s behalf by filing minor misdemeanor charges of disturbing the peace against people Krlich accuses of horn-honking. He’s bending he rules, he said, because Ohio law says a police officer has to witness such a crime for a charge to be filed. Instead, Villano has allowed charges to be filed if Krlich has caught the act on tape.
The maximum penalty for disturbing the peace is a $150 fine and court costs, Villano said.