Man convicted of “racially motivated” double murder gets new trial

Published: Wednesday, January 02, 2013 @ 3:05 PM
Updated: Wednesday, January 02, 2013 @ 3:05 PM

A Jefferson Twp. man sentenced to 38 years to life in prison for the slaying of two men who offered to help him after a drug ripoff will get a new trial.

The Ohio 2nd District Court of Appeals reversed the conviction of Gregory Leet, agreeing with Leet that the trial court erred when it overruled Leet’s motion to suppress. The decision was handed down Friday.

At issue are statements that Leet made to Montgomery County Sheriff’s investigators in March 2010. The decision, written by Judge Mary E. Donovan and joined by Judge Thomas J. Grady, states that questioning should have broken off immediately when he asked for a lawyer during his second conversation with detectives. The decision also states that the record shows that Leet’s initial waiver, before his first conversation, was not made in a knowing, intelligent and voluntary fashion, as required by law. Therefore, all of those statements should have been excluded from the trial.

Judge Jeffrey E. Froelich concurred that the questioning should have stopped during the second conversation, but did not agree that the statements from the first conversation should be suppressed.

“I’ll be back in two years because I’m innocent,” Leet told Judge Mary Katherine Huffman at his June 7, 2011 sentencing, promising he would be out of prison within five years.

Huffman told Leet that the slayings were “so racially motivated.” Leet, 29, is white. Victims Nathan E. Gay and Harvey Sims Jr. were black. So was the man who ripped off Leet, and another man Leet beat up after his money was taken.

The bodies of Gay and Sims were found Feb. 26, 2010, along a bank of Bear Creek in Jefferson Twp.

A jury convicted Leet on May 27, 2011 of two counts of purposeful murder, two counts of felony murder, four counts of felonious assault and one count of tampering with evidence. He was exonerated on one count of aggravated robbery.

Leet’s friend Tylor Blevins and Blevins’ cousin Kenneth Bailey testified they saw Leet shoot Gay and Sims. The defense contended Bailey was the killer and Blevins was helping frame Leet.

Blevins testified that he, Bailey and Leet had left Hammerjax nightclub, 111 E. Fourth St., when Leet approached a man to purchase cocaine. That man, Abdul Jihad, testified he took Leet into the Wilkinson Apartments on West Fifth Street, took Leet’s money then ran off.

Unable to find Jihad, Leet then attacked an elderly man who was walking on the sidewalk, according to trial testimony.

Blevins said that Gay, 49, and Sims, 54, approached and said they knew who had taken the money.

Leet offered them each $100 to find the man, but said he’d have to go to his house in Jefferson Twp., according to witness testimony.

Witnesses said the victims got in Leet’s SUV, and the five men drove to Leet’s house. After stopping at the house, Leet drove to an area near 2701 Germantown-Liberty Road, according to trial testimony. Leet and the two victims got out of the vehicle, and Leet fired several shots, according to witness testimony. Blevins said he heard one of the men begging for his life.

9th inmate sues Montgomery County Jail, now-fired officer

Published: Thursday, May 25, 2017 @ 1:12 PM

A ninth lawsuit has been filed against Montgomery County Jail personnel, this one involving a now-fired corrections officer that the sheriff’s office tried to prosecute.

EARLIER: Officer who sheriff tried to charge for jail assault claims unfairness

Former inmate Darryl Wallace has sued former corrections officer Jerrid Campbell, Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer and the county’s board of commissioners in Dayton’s U.S. District Court.

Wallace’s attorneys alleged that Campbell “viciously beat” Wallace with impunity. The Sept. 28, 2015, altercation was captured on surveillance video.

RELATED: Officers spit on, attacked in jails bursting with mentally ill

Plummer said Thursday that Campbell was fired earlier this week for “violations of numerous policies.” Campbell declined to comment.

Charges were not filed against Campbell, who has levied various accusations against the sheriff’s office. Plummer has said previously that neither the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office nor the Dayton City Prosecutor would bring charges against the corrections officer.

RELATED: Oversight committee picked to monitor Montgomery County Jail

“The situation was properly investigated, and the employee was disciplined and held accountable to the fullest extent,” Plummer said, noting that Campbell was suspended without pay for 10 days.

I-TEAM SPECIAL PROJECT: Justice at the Jailhouse

Wallace claims he regularly experiences migraine headaches so bad “it feels like his forehead swells, the pain paralyzes him, and he vomits.”

Eight other former inmates have filed suits alleging mistreatment in the jail. None has reached trial or been settled.

Wrongly convicted man released after 24 years in prison for murder

Published: Thursday, May 25, 2017 @ 10:24 AM

Shaurn Thomas, 43, beams as he celebrates his freedom Tuesday, May 23, 2017, outside the Schuylkill County Correctional Facility in Frackville, Pennsylvania. Thomas was released after serving 24 years for a murder he did not commit.
Facebook/Pennsylvania Innocence Project

A Pennsylvania man was granted freedom Tuesday after spending 24 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.

Shaurn Thomas, 43, beamed as he walked out of the Schuylkill County Correctional Facility in Frackville and embraced family members, including his fiancée. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Thomas’ freedom was granted Tuesday morning by a judge who threw out his conviction in the 1990 murder of a businessman in North Philadelphia. 

Prosecutors in the case agreed with Thomas’ defense team that the evidence brought forth at trial did not support his conviction, the Inquirer reported. 

“I felt the justice system was going to prevail sooner or later, and that somebody would hear my cries,” Thomas said during a news conference outside the prison. “And they heard them.”

The people Thomas referred to were lawyers from the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, who took on Thomas’ case eight years ago. His lead attorney was James Figorski, senior staff attorney at Dechert LLP and a former Philadelphia police officer.  

>> Read more trending news

Thomas was convicted of the slaying of businessman Domingo Martinez, who was shot to death in November 1990 while taking a $25,000 check to be cashed. 

Thomas, then 16, had an alibi. He told authorities from the beginning that he was at a youth study center for juvenile offenders, dealing with the aftermath of an unrelated crime. 

Both Thomas and his mother said they were in court at the time of the murder, awaiting his initial appearance on an arrest the night before for a motorcycle theft, Dechert LLP said in a statement

The sign-in logs from the youth center disappeared before Thomas’ murder trial began. His alibi did not convince the jury, who found him guilty of Martinez’s murder. 

He was sentenced to life in prison in 1993, at the age of 19. 

Figorski, who represented Thomas pro bono, told the Inquirer that he was drawn to the case because he believed Thomas’ alibi. He worked with the Innocence Project to clear his client’s name. 

“Jim has never wavered in his support of Shaurn, and is responsible for uncovering astounding evidence of his innocence,” the Innocence Project said in a news release

The defense team began working in January with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office’s Conviction Review Unit, which found the case file from the Martinez murder investigation. The file disappeared decades ago.

“In that file were 36 pages of witness statements taken days after the murder for which Shaurn would be arrested years later,” the Innocence Project said. “Those statements point to viable alternative perpetrators.

“Had that information been available at trial -- and had the story of Shaurn’s presence in court at the moment the murder was committed been told correctly -- prosecutors agreed the trial would likely have ended differently.”

Despite his release, prosecutors could choose to refile murder charges against Thomas, the Inquirer reported. They have until June 13 to make their decision. 

In the meantime, Thomas is adjusting to being back with his family. He told NBC10 in Philadelphia that he plans to leave the city.

“Philadelphia caused me too many heartaches,” Thomas said. 

His mother, Hazeline Thomas, said it was difficult knowing that authorities did not believe her or her son. She said her son never gave up on proving his innocence.

“I’m proud because he was innocent and he did something about it,” she told NBC10.

“Family, prayer, hope,” Shaurn Thomas said. “Keep writing. Keep fighting. Never give up.”

Man accused of raping more than 40 women transferred from Ohio prison

Published: Thursday, May 25, 2017 @ 11:33 AM

Richard Gwinn is accused of raping more  than 40 women.

RICHMOND, Ind. — A 64-year-old man accused of raping more than 40 women was transferred from an Ohio prison to the Wayne County Jail in Indiana on Wednesday, according to our news partner Kicks 96. 

Richard Gwinn has been linked to dozens of rape investigations, through DNA testing, that were cold cases in Ohio and Florida.

Authorities believe Gwinn started raping women as early as 1974 in Vandalia. 

Gwinn is being held in Wayne County Jail on a $200,000 bond. 

Gwinn has been sentenced to two life terms in Florida.

Air Force reservist guilty of sex crime on base to be sentenced today

Published: Thursday, May 25, 2017 @ 10:46 AM

            Kyle Jordan is scheduled to be sentenced today in Dayton’s U.S. District Court.

Federal prosecutors want an Air Force reservist to spend more than seven years in prison for having sex with an unconscious woman he supervised at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Kyle Jordan, 31, an Air Force veteran who served in Iraq and Korea and one-time Butler County corrections officer, is scheduled to be sentenced today in Dayton’s U.S. District Court. He has been on electronic home monitoring for nearly a year and a half.

PREVIOUS: Air Force reservist pleads guilty to sex crime on base

Jordan pleaded guilty in January to sexual abuse in exchange for other charges to be dismissed. The plea deal capped Jordan’s potential sentence at 87 months — or 7 years and 3 months — for a charge that has a statutory sentencing range of zero years to life in prison. Jordan’s non-binding advisory sentencing range was calculated at 87 to 108 months.

Prosecutors said Jordan had sex with a woman “who was incapable of appraising the nature of the conduct” after a night of heavy drinking during a Christmas party in December 2015.

RELATED: Federal sex indictment stems from Christmas party

The prosecutors’ sentencing memorandum argued Jordan deserves that term of imprisonment because he had a position of authority over the woman, he lied to Air Force investigators and then obstructed justice by asking a friend to lie about where Jordan slept and then asked that friend to delete his text request.

In their sentencing memo, defense attorneys wrote that Jordan initially denied he had sex with the woman because “extreme intoxication” led to Jordan’s memory loss about the event. Jordan admitted to the crime after confronted with his DNA evidence, the memo said.

RELATED: Air Force reservist accused of sex crime at base faces more charges

Jordan’s attorneys also said that while he did ask a friend to lie about where he stayed the night, he didn’t know what he had done, but did know that “he woke up in a hotel with a young girl in his Unit and no one else was there, which would certainly not look good to Defendant’s 9-month-pregnant wife who was elsewhere that night.”

The attorneys said that while Jordan did ask a friend to lie, “it strongly appears here that Kyle was attempting to cover up an overnight situation that looked bad (he and another woman alone in a hotel) instead of covering up a rape.”

RELATED: Former corrections officer gets home detention in sex crime case

Defense attorneys said three alleged sexual assault victims of Jordan’s should be ignored at sentencing because of their “irrelevance, benignity, and complete lack of corroboration.” Jordan was not charged in any other case.

Jordan’s attorneys wrote that their client has exhibited model behavior on pretrial home detention, he has stopped heavy alcohol use, is a veteran, a good father of 9- and 1-year-old sons and has employment lined up if he receives probation instead of prison.

SOCIAL MEDIA: Follow Mark Gokavi on Twitter or Facebook

The defense attorneys included 19 letters of support from Jordan’s family and friends. The mother of his 9-year-old asked for mercy.

Friends and relatives pointed to Jordan’s 12 years of military service, honorable discharge, parenting skills, work ethic, loyalty and high character as reasons Jordan shouldn’t receive a long sentence.