Ex-Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds denied new trial

Sentencing scheduled for March 31. Reynolds faces six to 18 months in prison

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Former Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds will not get a new trial after arguing last month that prosecutors failed to turn over exculpatory evidence.

Visiting Judge Daniel Hogan issued his opinion Friday, stating the evidence in question, an email that was not turned over by the prosecution, contains information provided to the defense by audio and, therefore, does not constitute a Brady violation that would warrant a retrial.

A jury found Reynolds guilty Dec. 21, 2022, in Butler County Common Pleas Court of unlawful interest in a public contract, a fourth-degree felony. Reynolds was found not guilty of three felony charges and one misdemeanor charge.

Reynolds’ attorney Chad Ziepfel sought a new trial on the single felony conviction, claiming the prosecution failed to turn over emails that could have been used to impeach the single witness who testified about the count for which he was found guilty.

Ziepfel did not respond Friday to request for comment about the judge’s ruling. Reynolds’ conviction can still be appealed to the 12th District Court of Appeals.

Reynolds is scheduled to be sentenced March 31. He faces six to 18 months in prison, with a potential fine of up to $5,000. Because of the felony conviction, he is not legally permitted to hold elected office. Nancy Nix is now the auditor, selected by the Butler County GOP to replace him.

In the decision, Hogan said: “The defendant had the recording and with due diligence could have interviewed the witness and obtained their evidence. Furthermore, the information in the email and not on the tape does not disclose a strong probability that it would change the result if a new trial is granted because it is not material to the issues, it is cumulative to former evidence and does not impeach the state’s only witness Jenni Logan, or contradict the former evidence.”

Last month, Hogan heard oral arguments for about 90 minutes from both the defense and prosecution that mirrored the written motions filed by both sides.

In the motion, Ziepfel said the state withheld thousands of pages of documents and emails from the defense that would have contradicted the testimony of the single prosecution witness in the felony charge of which he was convicted.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The jury found Reynolds guilty of a charge that he allegedly suggested a partnership between Lakota Local Schools and Four Bridges Golf Club to expand the indoor golf training facility for the Lakota teams, but Ziepfel said the jury rendered this verdict and the defense presented its case without any of the thousands of pages of documents and emails obtained by the state from subpoenas to Four Bridges.

After trial, Ziepfel said the defense obtained one of four emails suppressed by the state — an April 26, 2017, email from Gene Powell, Four Bridges golf pro and Lakota golf coach, to Doug Herald and Graham Parlin, owners of Four Bridges.

The email, Ziepfel said, would have “drastically changed the defense’s trial strategy and ultimately the jury’s verdict on count six.”

But prosecutors said the defendant’s motion is riddled with misrepresentations regarding discovery and evidence presented in the case.

Despite being aware of the involvement of the men mentioned in their motion, “defendant chose not to call them as witnesses at trial. This suggests that the defendant merely regrets his trial strategy and is seeking a second bite at the apple,” wrote Assistant Prosecutor Drew Wood.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Ziepfel said the email “directly contradicts and impeaches the key testimony given by Lakota treasurer Jenni Logan, who was the sole witness the state presented to support count six.”

Prosecutors say that is not true. In fact, the Powell email “is consistent with Ms. Logan’s testimony that members of the school district privately did not support the academy and publicly avoided expressing their lack of support because they did not wish to upset the auditor. Mr. Logan presented the information to the jury, it is not new information,” Wood said.

On Aug. 11, 2022, the audio-recorded interview with Powell, in which he names the other men with whom he discussed the proposal, was disclosed to the defense, according to Wood.

“The state did not hide the existence of these potential witnesses. The defense simply chose to ignore them,” Wood said in the response.

Hogan said during the hearing the prosecution should have given the emails to the defense and “there is no dispute.” But he said the audio interview with Powell was given to the defense and contained the information in the emails.

Wood said the emails were cumulative to what had already been disclosed to the defense and not a Brady violation.

Ziepfel argued the emails contained additional information and could have been presented differently at trial than an audio recording of an interview.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

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