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Wednesday, January 25,2012

Charge dropped against longtime environmental activist

By Jim Phillips

Photo Caption: Chad Kister in court.

A charge of aggravated menacing has been dropped in Athens County Municipal Court against local environmental activist Chad Kister. The charge had been based on threats Kister allegedly made on a call-in program of a Nelsonville radio station.

In a news release, Kister has portrayed the dropping of the first-degree misdemeanor charge as a major victory and validation of his claims that he is the victim of ongoing persecution by local and federal authorities. The visiting judge who approved the tentative dismissal of the charge, though, said Wednesday that it was driven mainly by concerns that Kister's speedy-trial deadline was approaching.

Judge Douglas Bennett, who formerly sat on the Athens County Municipal Court bench, added that the charge can be re-filed within the next six months.

Kister, 41, of Nelsonville, was initially charged based on two incidents in June and July, both involving phoned-in comments to a local morning talk-radio show.

In the first incident, Kister allegedly stated that Sheriff Pat Kelly "must die." In the second, he allegedly threatened to have the host of the show, Sharon Elliott, "killed or robbed." Kister denied any wrongdoing, and pleaded not guilty.

On Wednesday, Kelly said he doesn't have a problem with Kister's charges being dropped.

"I'm not opposed to it," the sheriff said. "It's not a point of wanting Chad to go to jail. Chad seriously needs help. He can't threaten people, but let's just hope that the courts at some point get him some help."

In December, Athens County Municipal Judge William A. Grim ruled that Kister, despite having been involuntarily hospitalized in the past for mental-health treatment, was competent to stand trial. Grim also granted Kister's motion to have him recuse himself from the case and appoint another judge.

At the time of that hearing, a special prosecutor offered Kister a deal in which he would receive mental-health treatment and no criminal prosecution. Kister refused and demanded a jury trial.

Kister has declared repeatedly that "the government" has put some type of implant into his brain; he reportedly was allowed to introduce X-rays of his head into evidence at the Municipal Court hearing earlier this month where his charges were dropped.

He is also currently pursuing a complaint through the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio against telecommunications utility giant AT&T, charging among other things that the company has engaged in "intense interference" with his home phone line, as well as "illegal wiretapping."

An attorney for AT&T Ohio has responded to the complaint, denying Kister's charges.

Attorney Jon F. Kelly has asked the PUCO to dismiss the complaint at least in part, because the regulatory agency lacks jurisdiction to hear issues such as wiretapping allegations.


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