Yesterday 3BP raised quite a ruckus with breaking the story about the potential legal issues facing Governor Strickland’s Chief Counsel, Kent Markus.
The story revolves around the now infamous Troopergate, and the thrust of the issue at hand comes from the following excerpt from the Columbus Dispatch dated Feburary 27th:
Former State Highway Patrol Lt. Col. William Costas, who retired this month as the agency’s No. 2 leader, said investigators had to defend their authority to investigate the case under questioning from the top two lawyers to Gov. Ted Strickland.
The governor’s office said it was making sure the patrol had proper jurisdiction, but Costas charges that the lawyers were trying to throw up a roadblock. In the end, the investigation proceeded without interruption.
The Sept. 10, 2008, meeting in which Kent Markus, who is chief counsel to the governor, and Jose Torres, his deputy, questioned the patrol’s role will add fuel to a political issue brewing at the Statehouse. Republican lawmakers are asking whether political meddling has afflicted patrol investigations.
In this case, search warrants were issued. My source close to the situation states that search warrants can’t happen without a judge concluding there is probable cause of a crime that should be investigated. Moreover, there has never been question about the Highway Patrol’s jurisdiction to investigate a crime on state property. The facts are that the rental property owner called a lobbyist, who called the Governor’s attorney, who then gets involved in a criminal investigation in a way the Highway Patrol found to be intrusive with the intent to shut the investigation down.
There is no precedent for that. Normally a lawyer is working inside the bounds of his normal course of business. The Governor’s office is saying they were afraid of a lawsuit, because it is only business issues like that which would be in his normal scope of business. There is no aspect of the Governor’s counsel where criminal work comes into play. That’s in the Attorney General’s scope through the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
And per my source, that’s where the Franklin County Prosecutor’s office has gotten involved. If cases can be shut down or obstructed by the Governor’s office, cases which are in the County Prosecutor’s jurisdiction to prosecute, then the Prosecutor has, for lack of a better term, been punked. The Highway Patrol and Ron O’Brien isn’t going to allow the precedent to stand.
The question is how fast this will progress. As I stated in yesterday’s post, due to the political fallout, Strickland can’t afford something bad to drop later in the fall. My source states plea talks are underway and if they fail an indictment will follow.
Firm evidence will float to the top. And when it does, remember where you heard about it first.