By Mark Gillispie
CLEVELAND — The new county prosecutor in Cleveland appears to have left open the possibility he might not pursue misdemeanor criminal charges against five Cleveland police supervisors for failing to control a high-speed chase in 2012 that ended with two unarmed black people fatally shot in a 137-shot barrage of police gunfire.
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a judge in East Cleveland, where the chase ended, can preside over the officers' dereliction of duty charges. The ruling did not address the merits of the charges.
Prosecutor Michael O'Malley said through a spokesman Friday that his office was reviewing the court's ruling and that no decision had been made about whether he would pursue charges against Randolph Dailey, Patricia Coleman, Michael Donegan, Jason Edens and Paul Wilson.
O'Malley took office in January and inherited the case from his predecessor, Tim McGinty, whom O'Malley defeated last year in a Democratic primary election.
The chase in November 2012 began near Cleveland police headquarters after an officer standing outside the building reported a shot had been fired from a passing beat-up Chevy Malibu. Experts later said it was likely the sound of the car backfiring.
The supervisors initially were charged in May 2014 at the same time patrol officer Michael Brelo was indicted on voluntary manslaughter charges for the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. Brelo was the only officer of the 13 who shot at the car charged with a crime. Brelo fired 49 of the 137 rounds, including a final 15-shot volley while standing on the hood of the Malibu.
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John P. O'Donnell acquitted Brelo in May 2015 after a bench trial. O'Donnell was scheduled to preside over the supervisors' trial but eventually dismissed the case at McGinty's request after the prosecutor filed identical dereliction of duty charges in East Cleveland.
Attorneys for the supervisors accused McGinty of “forum shopping” and appealed to the 8th District Court of Appeals, which issued an order prohibiting the case from being heard in East Cleveland. The Supreme Court overturned that ruling on Thursday.
The East Cleveland judge, William Dawson, didn't return phone messages Thursday. The court was closed Friday. McGinty's appeal to the Supreme Court said Dawson “takes no position on his authority or jurisdiction” in the case.
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