New firestorm over deadly Cleveland police chase: Pay to get charges dropped?

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The FOX 8 I-Team is investigating a new firestorm over a deadly Cleveland police chase.

Years later, five Cleveland police supervisors could still go on trial in the city of East Cleveland, but defense attorneys say East Cleveland has offered to drop the charges in exchange for $5,000 from each of those supervisors.

It's new fallout from a chase in 2012 when Cleveland officers chased a car into East Cleveland and shot and killed two suspects.

Five bosses could be tried for dereliction of duty.

But two defense attorneys say the East Cleveland law director told them if each officer pays $5,000, the charges would be dismissed.

Defense lawyer Henry Hilow said the offer was made to him twice. He told the I-Team, "And there's no basis for it in law, no basis for a practicing attorney. In fact, to a lay person, this would be extortion."

Attorney Kevin Spellacy wrote to East Cleveland City Hall calling the offer “insulting.” He added, it “borders on…problematic territory.”

The I-Team went to the East Cleveland mayor. Brandon King told us, he’s aware of all of this. But he wanted to wait to talk about it until the law director was with him. Thursday, we were told she was out of town.

A letter from the East Cleveland law director shows the city intends to prosecute, but the city sought to “mitigate charges” with the offer.

As the Cleveland officers wait for their days in court, consider, the maximum fine if convicted would be $1,000. But two defense attorneys tell us, East Cleveland wants $5,000 from each officer to make the cases go away. The I-Team has letters sent by those attorneys saying, "forget it."

Hilow added, "There's no negotiation. Either dismiss the case or try it."

The I-Team also reached out to Cleveland State University Law Professor Jonathan Witmer-Rich. He said it’s not unusual for prosecutors to work out restitution payments in advance in cases when someone is going through a first-offender’s program that can ultimately lead to having the person’s record wiped clean. However, he says, what’s been described with this case in East Cleveland is much more unusual.

It’s not clear what might happen next with the case or when.

Continuing coverage.

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