Ohio Rep. Wes Retherford hasn't gotten special treatment, Butler County prosecutor says

Lawmaker indicted on count of OVI

BUTLER COUNTY, Ohio -- Ohio Rep. Wes Retherford hasn't gotten special treatment in his drunken driving case because he's a state lawmaker, Butler County Michael Gmoser said Monday.

In a lengthy written statement, the prosecutor also blasted a "blood lust by (Retherford's) political enemies for his resignation" before the legal process plays out.

 

According to the Butler County Sheriff's Office, Retherford, R-Hamilton, appeared to be passed out behind the wheel at a McDonald's drive-thru in Liberty Township on March 12. A 911 caller reported seeing a man in the driver's seat of a running Chevrolet Silverado at 3:23 a.m. that day.

After a field sobriety test, Retherford reported he had a pistol in his truck. A deputy found the Glock 23 in a holder with 15 rounds in the magazine and one round in the chamber, according to an incident report. Gmoser said the holstered gun was under an arm rest.

A grand jury indicted Retheford on a count of operating a vehicle under the influence, according to a report handed down Monday. But it dismissed a felony count of improperly handling a firearm in a vehicle.

Retherford, 33, represents Ohio's 51st District, which includes the cities of Hamilton and Fairfield, Ross Township, and parts of Fairfield, Hanover and St. Clair townships. If convicted of the felony count, he could have been forced out of office.

 

Prosecutors have wide discretion on how to proceed with many criminal cases. In Hamilton County, Prosecutor Joe Deters dropped a felony charge against Bengals cornerback Adam Jones, chalking up Jones' behavior to "drunken foolishness." Jones was accused of spitting on a nurse at the county jail after police arrested him at a downtown Cincinnati hotel.

In the majority of cases similar to Retherford's, Gmoser said the defendant typically pleads guilty to drunken driving, and the weapons charge is either dismissed or reduced to a misdemeanor.

"The same or similar result is the experience of the neighboring county prosecutors that I polled," he wrote. "In one, treatment in lieu of conviction is the model and in another, weapons charges against first offenders without additional aggravating circumstances, like Mr. Retherford, are ignored."

According to Gmoser, that's been true even for law enforcement officers who are held to a higher standard. He pointed to the case of a retired police officer who had too much to drink after a service for a fallen offcer.

"He chose to drive intoxicated and had, upon his arrest, a loaded pistol in his waistband. This was much more serious than the Retherford case, but the Grand Jury still ignored it."

Retherford agreed to appear and testify before the grand jury, Gmoser said. He appeared in court before then, on March 22, but said nothing as he left the building. He waived his right to a preliminary hearing.

County and state GOP leaders have called on Retherford to resign since his arrest last month, just the latest in a series of run-ins with his fellow Republicans. In the most recent primary, in March 2016, the Butler County Republican Party endorsed former state Rep. Courtney Combs over the incumbent Retherford. And in 2015, Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger ordered Retherford to remove a liquor cabinet he was keeping in his office. Combs pounced on that incident during the primary campaign, accusing Retherford of turning his district office into a fraternity house and coining the hashtag #StatehouseNotFratHouse on Twitter.

Read Gmoser's entire statement below or click here to view:

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