Nohra criminal case sent back to local court

WARREN — An assistant Trumbull County prosecutor termed it a win for the Ohio Constitution as the 11th District Court of Appeals this week reversed the judgment of a common pleas judge and remanded to a local court felony charges dealing with a former Liberty schools superintendent.

The case involved Joseph Nohra, 51, of Topper Hill Drive, Hubbard, accused of wiretapping a district office. He left his Liberty superintendent’s job in 2020, facing six felony wiretapping charges. On Dec. 30, 2021, Judge Ronald J. Rice dismissed the felonies against Nohra, leaving five misdemeanor counts of interfering with civil rights.

But 11th District judges Mary Jane Trapp, Matt Lynch and Thomas R. Wright all concurred with the reversal that was filed Sept. 6. A common pleas court official said no new hearings have been set in the criminal case against Nohra.

Wright wrote that “any attempt to challenge the constitutionality of (state law’s definition of oral communication) is premature.”

Assistant Prosecutor Charles Morrow said he is pleased with the decision, adding the public’s right of privacy has been preserved. Morrow thanked Ohio Solicitor General Benjamin Flowers and his deputy Sylvia May Mailman for their efforts in arguing the case in the appellate court.

Nohra’s attorney, David Betras, said, “We will fight this thing to the bitter end,” adding he will refile with Rice another motion to dismiss the case.

“It is unbelievable that someone is stealing from the school system and my client is charged with a crime,” Betras said.

The charges dealt with Nohra, when he was superintendent, setting up a hidden surveillance camera and audio above an employee’s desk in the district office in the bus garage.

The allegations came from an investigation initiated by the state auditor’s office that was executed through a search warrant by local authorities at Liberty schools on March 5, 2019.

Betras has previously explained Nohra at the time was presented with credible evidence that a school employee may have been involved in theft in office. Nohra, with the knowledge and approval of the school board and its legal counsel, initiated his own investigation that resulted in that employee’s resignation, Betras stated.

In his dismissal decision, Rice stated the court “finds that there is lack of guidance as to what constitutes an oral communication in this regard and that such lack of guidance leads to the arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement of this statute.”

The appellate judges, however, stated the trial court erred because it was premature in its determination, siding with the prosecutors — who argued the facts of the case remain in dispute.


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