Special Prosecutor Appointed to Investigate Release of Protected Records

Ohioans For Concealed Carry Calls on Legislators to Repeal Media Access Loophole

June 17, 2004, 12:01 a.m.

CLEVELAND - Ohioans For Concealed Carry today announced that it is calling upon the Ohio General Assembly to remove the flawed media access loophole from the new concealed handgun license law.

The move is being made following the announcement by Shelby County Prosecutor Jim Stevenson that, in response to his request, Court of Common Pleas
Judge John D. Schmitt has appointed a special prosecutor (Miami County Prosecutor Gary Nasal) to look into possible criminal violations by Shelby Co. Sheriff Kevin O'Leary and Sidney Daily News editor Jeffrey Billiel, a Brown Publishing Co. employee.

At least ten Ohio Concealed Handgun License-holders have contacted OFCC's Office of General Counsel for advice on seeking legal recourse for damages related to the release of their private, protected information. These people were referred to Attorney Ken Hanson with the firm of Firestone and Brehm, Ltd., for legal help.

Several national news outlets have covered this story, following a press statement from OFCC, which first raised awareness of the sheriff's actions. The Citizen's Committee on the Right to Keep and Bear Arms has called upon the Attorney General's office to investigate this matter.

"It really is an unfortunate situation for these citizens. Most commented that the disclosure will have an impact on their lives, including one person who previously had received death threats and now has his home address printed in the paper," said Attorney Hanson, who has agreed to make the results of his research and investigation available to the special prosecutor, and to forward the contact information for the victims who consent to being contacted.

The special prosecutor will investigate allegations that Sheriff O'Leary "did release or otherwise disseminate records that are confidential under Ohio Revised Code Section 2923.129(B)(1), and against the peace and dignity of the State of Ohio, a fifth degree felony." The investigation will also examine charges that O'Leary committed dereliction of duty and violated the civil rights of the 85 license-holders whose private information was disseminated. Those crimes are misdemeanors of the second and first degree, respectively.

"When Governor Taft insisted on inserting this loophole at the eleventh hour, it was justified, in part, by adding penalties for violating this same section," said attorney Ken Hanson. "My clients have asked the [Shelby Co.] prosecutor to enforce these protections. This investigation will decide whether violators will be held accountable, or whether Sheriff O'Leary and the Sidney Daily News will be Exhibit A offered with legislation that will be introduced to repeal the media access loophole."

Ohioans For Concealed Carry has opposed the media access loophole from the moment Governor Taft began demanding it last November. Even when sheriffs follow it properly, it puts them in an awkward position. Sheriffs are already reporting that they are struggling to keep up with demand for licenses, and the frequent and unnecessary requests for access by the media just saddles them with more paperwork.

"Sheriffs don't deserve to be faced with the specter of committing accidental felonies any more than do license-holders who are struggling to comply with the Ohio State Highway Patrol's flawed ‘plain sight’ car-carry language," remarked Jim Irvine, OFCC PAC Chairman. "This loophole is only law because of Bob Taft and a few term-limited Republican senators. On December 17th of last year, in the final hours of debate over House Bill 12, Senator Doug White told Ohio Public Radio that several Republican senators were afraid to override the threat of a Taft veto because they were hoping for job appointments."

"Although our organization considers what O'Leary did to be a serious crime," said Jeff Garvas, President of Ohioans For Concealed Carry, "we feel it is one of numerous instances where Ohio's concealed carry law has made a felony out of something that simply doesn't warrant felony charges."

"We support the sheriffs," stated Garvas. "We are calling upon the General Assembly to remove this useless loophole from the law before Election Day. It is not being used for the supposed reasons it was inserted, and it now threatens to ruin the career of a sheriff and newspaper editor over an alleged accidental felony."

UPDATE! CNSNews.com has picked up this story!
Concealed Carry Advocates Seek Improvements in New Ohio Law

Related Stories:
New online poll tests Shelby Co. Sheriff's assertions about ''vague'' law

Sidney Daily News and Shelby Co. Sheriff maintain they committed no crimes

Shelby Co. Sheriff releases CHL-holders' protected, private information to media

Click on the "Read More..." link below for the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms media statement on these developments.

June 17, 2004, 6:02 p.m.


BELLEVUE, Wash., June 17 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms today congratulated Shelby County Prosecutor Jim Stevenson and Common Pleas Judge John D. Schmitt for setting in motion an investigation into possible criminal charges related to the publication of names and home addresses of concealed pistol license holders by a local newspaper.

The Sidney Daily News on June 8 published the names and addresses of 87 CPL holders, apparently in violation of state statute. The investigation will determine whether Sheriff Kevin O'Leary and Daily News editor Jeffrey Billiel acted illegally. CCRKBA had earlier called upon State Attorney General Jim Petro to investigate.

"While we would still like for Attorney General Petro's office to give this case its attention," said CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb, "we're delighted that Mr. Stevenson and Judge Schmitt have courageously decided to act. Gun owners, like anybody else, have privacy rights, and the state law seems pretty clearly written so that only the names and county of residence-not the home addresses-of CPL holders be made available to reporters by local sheriffs."

Added CCRKBA Executive Director Joe Waldron, "We agree with Ohioans For Concealed Carry that this public disclosure clause of the state law needs to be either revised or scrapped, just because of cases like this. There is serious concern that this was not an inadvertent misunderstanding of the statute, but a deliberate effort by the sheriff and the newspaper to hold these law-abiding gun owners up to public scorn. Ohio gun owners should congratulate both the judge and prosecutor in Shelby County for quickly coming to a decision we know must have been uncomfortable for them."

Miami County Prosecutor Gary Nasal has been appointed to act as the special prosecutor in this case. Both CCRKBA officials say they expect Nasal to conduct an impartial investigation, and hope that this action will serve as a deterrent for this sort of thing to happen in other Ohio counties.

"The fact that the law makes this kind of violation a felony demonstrates how serious gun owners are about protecting their privacy," Gottlieb stated. "It is only proper that a lawman and newspaper editor who wanted to hold gun owners up to some public scrutiny are now facing even more serious scrutiny."

With more than 650,000 members and supporters nationwide, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms is one of the nation's premier gun rights organizations. As a non-profit organization, the Citizens Committee is dedicated to preserving firearms freedoms through active lobbying of elected officials and facilitating grass-roots organization of gun rights activists in local communities throughout the United States.

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