GEAUGA COUNTY, Ohio (WJW) — The FOX 8 I-Team has uncovered new fallout from an investigation into a local police chief suspected of having no right to wear a badge.
A man handcuffed by former Thompson Township police chief Chris Di Domenico in March and brought to jail on two misdemeanor counts had his case dismissed Monday in Chardon Municipal Court.
The FOX 8 I-Team found the prosecutor asked for the case to be tossed because “there is an issue of whether the arresting officer was a certified law enforcement officer.”
“If you are going to restrain somebody like that and deprive them of their freedom, you need to be able to have the authority to do that,” said Geauga County Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand. “It doesn’t appear he had the authority to do that.”
Geauga County Prosecutor James Flaiz said for Di Domenico to work as a police chief or officer in a township in Ohio, he needs to have a current law enforcement commission. Officials said Di Domenico has not been commissioned to work as an officer since 2008.
Thompson Township trustees hired Di Domenico in August. He was fired in April after the sheriff and prosecutor met with trustees in an executive session.
The I-Team spoke to the man who was arrested by Di Domenico and he tells us he felt his rights were violated.
“Who do I talk to about being kidnapped?” the man said. He asked that we do not identify him since the charges were dismissed. “He is not a certified police officer in the state of Ohio. He is just a guy driving around pretending to be a policeman.”
The man said he had to stay the weekend in jail.
Di Domenico is not facing any criminal charges. The prosecutor and sheriff are continuing to investigate and say charges could be filed.
However, Di Domenico’s attorney disagrees with the sheriff and prosecutor.
“Mr. DiDomenico had every right to believe that his appointment and oath office at two different public open meetings done nearly a year ago was lawful,” said Atty. Joseph Klammer, who represents Di Domenico. “Per R.C. 309.09, the county prosecuting attorney shall be the legal adviser for all township officers and boards. He also disclosed his appointment to the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission’s “Newly Appointed Chief of Police” course and he was allowed to participate in that training. R.C. 109.804 specifically defines ‘newly appointed chief of police’ as ‘a person’ appointed per R.C. 505.49 ‘or any administrative official responsible for the daily administration and supervision of peace officers[.]’ His heart is broken to read the stories about him. While the situation is confusing, there is nothing criminal. He had every right to believe that had anyone thought the trustees misread the statutes, that person would have come to the board of trustees sometime in the last year. “
Klammer added that his client was “never pretending to be a police officer.”
“The Ohio Revised Code gives township trustees different authority for appointment of chief’s of police for their smaller police departments. He was described by one trustee as ‘incredibly helpful and knowledgeable.’ Because of that, on July 5, 2022, the township trustees unanimously appointed him on a part time basis with no benefits. On July 18, 2022, he was issued an oath of office at a public township trustees meeting,” Klammer said. “Everyone is aware that he then attended the State of Ohio’s statutory chief of police training course. By all accounts, he helped transform the township department into one about which the trustees were proud.”