In response to an endorsement of Republican Steve Kane in the county sheriff's race against incumbent Pat Kelly, in which The Athens NEWS cited a number of past incidents involving Kelly, a Kelly supporter has brought up a number of past incidents involving Kane that he believes deserve more media attention.
The Athens NEWS has investigated these incidents, none of which involved the allegation of any criminal activity by Kane, or resulted in any charges against him.
Incidents cited by former sheriff's Lt. Jeff Cotterill include a 2006 sheriff's response to Kane's home about a fight; a 2011 fatal heroin overdose in a home owned by Kane and occupied by a relative; and a 2012 complaint by a neighbor about damage to her property by Kane's cattle.
Cotterill has also cited Kane's 1994 divorce, in which a judge placed Kane under a restraining order.
In none of these cases does Cotterill allege that any criminal charges were filed against Kane, though he states that actions such as "brawling" and trespassing "are criminal offenses."
He does claim that in 2001 Kane was "in court in Delaware County… on domestic violence charges."
This allegation appears to be baseless, as no record of any such charges against Kane could be found in the records of Delaware County Municipal Court records. (The way the letter is phrased, however, it avoids explicitly alleging that the charges were against Kane.)
In a letter that Cotterill claims he sent to both the Athens NEWS and Athens Messenger, Cotterill suggests that the NEWS endorsement was applying a double standard, by playing up incidents in Kelly's past – such as his indictment for perjury in 1998, and a 2011 inquiry by the Ohio Ethics Commission into Kelly's alleged attempt to interfere with a criminal investigation of his son – and ignoring the incidents involving Kane that he cited in his letter.
The NEWS has no record of having received Cotterill's letter for publication. It came to the paper's attention when it was posted on the sheriff's personal Facebook site. Subsequently, supporters of Kellu posted the letter on The NEWS' Facebook site as well.
Sheriff Kelly would not comment on the allegations in Cotterill's letter, and has informed The NEWS that he will have no comment for the paper on any topic – "Nothing," is the way he put it.
Here are the allegations, the evidence on the incidents from public records, and Kane's comments.
• 1994, Delaware County judge places Kane under restraining order.
Kane and his then-wife were going through a divorce; court records indicate that the judge issued a restraining order against Kane four days after issuing one against his wife. Kane called this a common practice in contested divorces.
• July 1, 2006 deputies respond to fight call at Kane's home in Shade.
Sheriff's records show that Kane's daughter-in-law called at 8:47 p.m. and reported that a man on an ATV was "starting a fight with her father-in-law and husband."
She said that the man and a woman had been driving very fast on Slab Road on the four-wheeler, and Kane had asked the man to slow down because children were in the vicinity. She said the man hit a vehicle with the ATV, and also punched Kane.
The report indicates Kane himself gave a similar account, telling officers that after he yelled at the man to slow down, the man "stopped the four-wheeler and started cussing and yelling at him," then hit Kane in the face. Kane said he then pushed the man down on the ground.
The report says the man "got up and jumped on his four-wheeler and took off," hitting a vehicle as he left.
• Aug. 23, 2012, neighbor complains about Kane's cattle.
Sheriff's records show the neighbor complained that a bull of Kane's "keeps coming onto her property; has caused property damage."
The woman told an officer that in the past several months a bull calf had been getting into her yard repeatedly, causing damage including the destruction of a bird feeder and a birdbath.
When the officer talked to Kane, the report says, Kane "advised yes, the calf gets out a lot," and that he had tried to confine it with electric fence but the animal would go right through it. He promised to pay for any damage, and added that the bull was to be shot that weekend. "He understands it's a problem to (his neighbor) about the cows in her yard and will take care of it," the report added.
• Aug. 26, 2011, man found dead from drug overdose in a house that Kane owns near his home.
Kane's stepdaughter's boyfriend called this in, sheriff's reports show. The couple lived in the house with children. The man reported that a friend of his from work had stopped by late at night and asked to stay the night, then asked around 2 a.m. if he could take a shower. The next morning, a member of the household found the visitor, 34-year-old Wes McClure of Pomeroy, Ohio, dead on the bathroom floor. Authorities found a syringe and other apparent drug paraphernalia. The residents gave permission to search the home, and officers seized some "items" as evidence.
An autopsy concluded that McClure died of a heroin overdose. An initial report by a sheriff's officer states, "At this time it appears as if McClure may have stopped on the ride back from Cleveland and purchased narcotics," then shot up in the bathroom and accidentally overdosed.
Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said the case was never presented to his office for any type of criminal prosecution. Blackburn added that he has requested a copy of a 911 call made by one of the home's residents after the body was removed, which he believes may have been reporting that officers who responded failed to remove a bag of heroin from the scene and needed to come back and get it.
Kane noted he was out of town when the incident occurred. "I wasn't even present," he told The NEWS. He added that other than the man who called the incident in, the other occupants of the house had all gone to bed before McClure arrived, and didn't know he was there until they found his body.