An offer from the law director of a beleaguered Ohio city to not pursue misdemeanor dereliction-of-duty charges against five Cleveland police supervisors if they each agreed to pay the city $5,000 is “extortion,” an attorney for one of the supervisors said Saturday.
Defense attorney Henry Hilow said East Cleveland Law Director Willa Hemmons made the offer last month. Hemmons didn’t return messages seeking comment, but she told WEWS-TV: “It shows that they are sorry for what happened to the citizens of East Cleveland, and a result of their indiscretions, we thought a fair balance would be for them to pay $5,000 apiece.”
The maximum penalty for a first-degree misdemeanor in Ohio is six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Hilow said there’s no legal basis for Hemmons’ offer and thinks she is trying to use the officers as a “revenue source.” East Cleveland is one of the poorest cities in Ohio.
“You can’t offer a criminal resolution by offering a civil settlement,” Hilow said. “We’re not doing it.”
Attorneys for the other supervisors also are rejecting Hemmons’ offer, he said.
The supervisors were on duty in November 2012 when two unarmed black people were killed in a 137-shot barrage of Cleveland police gunfire in East Cleveland after a high-speed chase involving more than 60 police cruisers and more than 100 officers.
The supervisors originally were indicted by a Cuyahoga County grand jury in May 2014 along with patrolman Michael Brelo, who was charged with involuntary manslaughter for firing 49 of the 137 rounds, including the last 15 from the hood of the car. The families of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams eventually split $3 million in a settlement with the city of Cleveland.
A judge found Brelo not guilty in May 2015. Then-Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty, fearing the supervisors would be found not guilty by the same judge, moved two months later to dismiss the charges against the supervisors and have their cases heard in East Cleveland.