Redfern upset in embarrassing losses
We first reported on last year’s Ohio House race between Republican Steve Kraus and Democrat Chris Redfern, who was the incumbent in the 89th district at the time. Of course, Redfern was known statewide because he was also the Chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party.
We were the only source to report on polls showing Kraus with a lead over Redfern. Kraus did go on to beat Redfern, which was a surprise upset, since the ODP Chairman had won election in 2012 by over 40 points. The Ohio Democrat’s entire statewide ticket also took a major beating, losing all of their races by double digits. Redfern, suffering embarrassing losses both as a candidate and as the leader of the Ohio Dems, resigned his chairmanship shortly thereafter.
Allegations of burglary against Kraus before the election
On September 25th, the Sandusky Register learned that Kraus had been investigated in April of 2014 by Danbury Township Police in April for an alleged burglary. Since the case is still pending and the trial has yet to begin, Kraus cannot answer specific questions about the incident. However, here is what we know so far from many reports from the Register.
Kraus is an auctioneer by trade. The alleged victim, Helen Stines, was selling her home and possessions and moving into an apartment due to some financial difficulties. Kraus was hired to appraise items for sale. There does not seem to be disagreement on this issue that Kraus had permission to enter the property.
Where the two sides differ is that the police report states that Kraus only had permission to enter the garage to appraise an antique car. Kraus said that he did have permission from a real estate agent to enter the house for the purposes of preparing for an auction. Kraus maintains that this was all a misunderstanding between him, Ms. Stines and the real estate agent.
In either case, it seems obvious that Kraus was indeed contacted to conduct an auction of Ms. Stines’s belongings and given permission to enter at least part of the property. So why does this case smell fishy?
The prosecutor, an associate and donor to Chris Redfern, sat on the case for months with a clear conflict of interest.
Why did Mulligan sit on the case for so long?
Kraus was accused in April and Ottawa County Prosecutor Mark Mulligan received the final police report in July of 2014, months before the election. Kraus and others allege that Mulligan was holding the case in order to release it shortly before the November election in an attempt to damage Kraus’s chances against Redfern.
Why would Mulligan want to hurt Kraus in the election?
Because Mulligan and Chris Redfern, Kraus’s incumbent opponent, are known friends and associates. Mulligan is an elected Democrat in Redfern’s district. Earlier in the year, Mulligan appears to have given special treatment to his friend and obtained an indictment against an autistic teenager in just 5 days when he was accused of trespassing on Redfern’s property.
The heat Mulligan has taken about how he handled the Redfern case is one of numerous concerns raised by victims and others about Mulligan’s job performance.
An 83-year-old woman waited nearly two years for indictments against the former owner of an Ottawa County jewelry store who allegedly bilked her out of more than $200,000. Mulligan refused to take the theft complaint to a grand jury, forcing the woman’s family to seek help from the Ohio attorney general’s office.
The initial and subsequent investigations identified more than 50 alleged victims, according to the indictments a grand jury filed Sept. 10. Mulligan has refused to comment on why he refused to prosecute the case.
Mulligan was also a donor to Chris Redfern’s campaign. He gave Redfern $100 in December of 2013 and $25 in July of 2014, while this case was pending. There is also a $100 donation to Redfern in the name of Mulligan’s wife in 2012.
In prosecuting a case against his friend’s opponent, Mulligan had a clear conflict of interest, yet didn’t turn the case over to a special prosecutor for months.
Mulligan knew he had a conflict of interest but waited until September to finally turn the case over to a special prosecutor. He eventually hand picked Timothy Braun to take over the case. It’s also worth noting that Mulligan’s first choice of special prosecutor, Melissa Bergman, declined to take the case because she saw no evidence of wrongdoing.
Mulligan claims he didn’t know that Kraus was the opponent in Redfern’s reelection.
Right. And if you believe that, I might be able to interest you in a bridge in Brooklyn. From the Register:
“The police report did not mention that Kraus was a candidate for public office,” Mulligan said. “His candidacy was not relevant to the facts of the crime.”
The investigative report was released last summer.
Mulligan continued: “Additional information was needed to determine if sufficient evidence existed to bring a prosecution. Part of this process included my call to a witness, Jeanine Porter. She mentioned that Kraus might be running for public office but could not recall any more details. After hanging up, I asked a staff member to Google Kraus. That is when the conflict you mentioned was realized.”
This claim holds no water whatsoever. Mulligan and Redfern were associates. Both were Democrats who ran for office in Ottawa County. Mulligan donated to Redfern’s campaign on several occasions. And we are supposed to believe that Mulligan didn’t know who Redfern’s election opponent was? I don’t believe this for a second.
Against Ohio public records law, Mulligan refused to turn over public documents related to the case.
When the Sandusky Register requested the police reports, Detective Mark Meisler refused to turn it over, saying that Mulligan had warned him not to.
Meisler said he could not provide many more details — including the police report — on the advice of Ottawa County Prosecutor Mark Mulligan.
Mulligan sent area law enforcement agencies advice in letters he called “Mulligrams” that they should not release police reports to the public.
“A court case attached to the Mulligram held that police reports are not public records until the case is concluded,” a Mulligram sent by Mulligan states.
Police departments are required by state law to file incident reports, however, which are public records. Mulligan’s advice appears to be contrary to the specific requirements of the state’s open records law.
In September, the Register blasted Mulligan for keeping the police report secret.
It was Mulligan’s decision to hide information from the community and deny Kraus and voters proper due process. Like so many decisions, this one also appears improper, self-serving and manipulative.
Mulligan’s role in allowing the investigation to languish, through the May primary when Republicans in District 89 nominated Kraus to run against Redfern, right up to today, raises legitimate concerns about the prosecutor’s intentions.
Despite his legal obligations, Mulligan still refuses to release information about the initial complaint against Kraus, providing bogus interpretations of exemptions for ignoring the law. Once again, the embattled prosecutor is tainting the administration of justice in the county.
Only after this editorial, did Mulligan finally release to the Register a mere two pages of the police report. Mulligan has been accused in other cases of keeping public information secret and abusing the power of his office.
The partial police report raises serious questions about the case
In the partial report that Mulligan has released, there are serious discrepancies in the alleged victim’s story.
April 7th, 2014
Ms. Helen Stines visits the police station to report the alleged burglary and provides a list of 12 items that were missing. She claimed that her son’s girlfriend, Tabitha Loroff, witnessed a man on the property and took pictures of him. Stines told police that Loroff would be able to pick him out of a lineup.
Stines also tells police that her real estate agent “may have inadvertently given a male subject permission to enter the property and remove items from it.”
That right there appears to corroborate Kraus’s claim that he was given permission to enter the property and remove items in order to appraise them and prepare for an auction. It also backs up his claim that there was a misunderstanding.
Ms. Stines also reported that the items were returned.
April 25th, 2014
Stines’s house is sold, according to the Ottawa County Auditor’s website.
April 30th, 2014
The detective speaks with Tabitha Loroff over the phone. Loroff tells a completely different story to police.
Loroff says that no, she didn’t witness the incident, as Stines had told police. When asked if her boyfriend (Stines’s son) witnessed the incident, she also said no. Loroff also told police that she didn’t take the photographs, which again contradicts what Stines claimed.
Loroff told police that the items had already been returned and that everything she knew about the incident came from Helen Stines.
May 15th and May 22nd, 2014
Stines visited the station two more times, after she had sold the house, and revised the list of items allegedly stolen. Why did she continue to revise her list of items stolen? How could she have determined additional items had been taken after she had moved out of the house?
Does a last minute plea offer from prosecutor expose the real agenda?
Just days ago, the judge in the case called a last minute pre-trial hearing in the case. The parties were not given the proper notice but Kraus and his attorney were able to appear. According to the Sandusky Register:
It’s unclear what was discussed during the meeting. Murphy declined to comment and Crawford left the court immediately after the meeting.
“There have been no real discussions about a plea agreement,” Braun responded when asked about any potential plea deals. “As I understand it we’re going to trial.”
However, State Representative Kraus now says that is untrue. In a statement he released last week, he says that he was offered a plea deal. And the terms that were offered to him seem to confirm that this entire case was about affecting the outcome of the election, and not about the alleged crime itself.
Kraus says that he was offered a 1-year diversion program, after which his record would remain clean, if he agreed to resign his seat in the Ohio House of Representatives.
What? If this was truly about a crime of burglary, why would the prosecution be at all concerned about Kraus’s seat in the House? And why would the prosecution and court allow Kraus to keep his auctioneer’s license?
As he has from the very beginning, Kraus maintains his complete innocence and refused the deal. He asks some pretty serious questions about what is going on in Ottawa County.
- As concerned citizens, we have to ask ourselves a few questions:
- If the incident that brought charges against Mr. Kraus is related to his business as an auctioneer, why didn’t the court ask him to relinquish his auctioneer’s license as part of the plea deal?
- Why did Mr. Mulligan sit on the file and review it privately for over 3 months?
- How could Mr. Mulligan not know Steve Kraus was running against Chris Redfern, someone with whom he has “political ties” as stated in the Sandusky Register article dated Saturday, June 27, 2015? Or did he?
- Are there people in Ottawa County using the power of their positions to try and affect the outcome of elections?
- Is the court trying to undermine the will of the voting public by offering a deal that requires Steve Kraus resign from his seat as House Representative of the 89th District?
- Is the legal system broken in Ottawa County?
You can review Kraus’s entire statement here.
Kraus has maintained his innocence from the start, and even volunteered for a polygraph test, which found him to be truthful about the incident.
Kraus’s trial is scheduled to begin in just a couple of weeks. We’ll keep you updated on what we learn.