** Watch prior coverage of Kenneth Mills’ 2019 misdemeanor charges in the player above.
CLEVELAND (WJW) — An appellate court has overturned guilty verdicts against the former director of the Cuyahoga County jail, convicted last year of mismanaging the facility after several inmate deaths — ruling that some of the evidence presented against him was inadmissible in court.
Kenneth Mills was found guilty in September 2021 on misdemeanor counts of falsification and dereliction of duty, but was acquitted on a felony count of tampering with records, the Associated Press reported. He was sentenced the following October to nine months in prison — the maximum sentence.
Appellate judges found his trial court improperly allowed evidence related to nine inmate deaths that occurred before, during and after Mills’ tenure as the county’s regional corrections director — evidence whose value “was substantially outweighed by the unfair prejudice” to Mills.
“The minimal limiting instructions the trial court gave to the jury were insufficient to overcome the admission of inadmissible evidence of inmate deaths,” judges wrote. “Even if the remaining evidence established appellant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the blatant prejudice warrants a new trial.”
During trial, witnesses testified Mills ignored warnings about low staffing levels and available space at the jail.
Attorney General Dave Yost, whose office prosecuted Mills, said in a statement last year that Mills ran a short-staffed and overcrowded “hellhole” where “drugs flowed freely and medical care did not.” Eight inmates died at the jail in the second half of 2018, according to Yost’s office.
Mills’ attorneys argued the county sheriff’s office was responsible for the jail’s conditions, FOX 8 reported.
On Thursday, a spokesperson for the AG’s office told FOX 8: “We are reviewing the court’s decision and determining our next steps.”
Mills’ nine-month sentence means his release date would have come in July 2022. County court records show he sought a stay of his sentence amid the appeal, but that was denied.
Mills was among 10 jail employees who were criminally charged for negligence involving inmates. The others received sentences ranging from 18 months probation to two years in prison, according to Yost’s office.