I TEAM: Money for justice? Judge says not in his courtroom

EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio - The FOX 8 I TEAM is asking more questions about a local law director’s offer to drop charges against 5 police officers if they each pay $5000 to the court. And now the presiding judge there says he would not allow something like that to happen in his courtroom.

Last week, the I TEAM broke the story about the offer in East Cleveland. Five Cleveland police supervisors face charges of dereliction of duty for a 2012 chase that ended in East Cleveland with two suspects dead. The East Cleveland Law Director says the charges would be “dismissed with costs” if the supervisors each pay $5000. Willa Hemmons calls it plea bargaining, and she argues the city should be able to recover some of the money it spent investigating the case.

So we went to East Cleveland Judge William Dawson. He says he can’t talk about a specific pending case. But he spoke about an offer like that, in general. Dawson said, "And I tell you, it would never happen in my courtroom like that.” He added, "Nothing like that has ever come into my courtroom."

After talking to the judge, the I TEAM went upstairs to find the law director again. She told us the same offer still stands. And she handed us Ohio law that talks about having someone pay as part of sentencing in misdemeanor crimes. Yet sentencing comes after a conviction.

Hemmons told us she has made similar arrangements with suspects in drug cases and vandalism cases. As for this case, she told us she’s had discussion with defense lawyers outside of the courtroom.

Dawson also said, "But once a file gets to a court, once it gets to my court, we handle the files the way they're supposed to be handled. And there is no exchange of payment to dismiss a case."

Defense attorney Henry Hilow calls the offer “extortion.” He and the officers want the case dismissed or set for a trial date.

Hemmons said East Cleveland City Hall is still adding up the costs of investigating this case. She said that includes more than $50,000 in police overtime alone.

Continuing coverage.