GALLIPOLIS — A visiting judge will preside over a criminal case filed with the Common Pleas Court of Gallia County earlier this year against a Jackson County man accused in the rape of a 12-year-old girl of Gallia County.
In an entry filed with the Gallia County Clerk of Courts on August 9, Common Pleas Judge D. Dean Evans voluntarily recused himself in the case against William H. Simmers, 54, Oak Hill.
Simmers has been charged with four counts of first degree felony rape after his alleged sexual contact with the victim in this case identified as “Jane Doe #1” between March 1 and May 19, 2012. The victim’s date of birth is listed on court documents as February 12, 2000.
Simmers is also facing a charge of tampering with evidence after he allegedly destroyed an electronic storage device during an investigation into his conduct on May 19 — a device that reportedly contained nude pictures of “Jane Doe#1.”
Judge Evans’ recusal followed the filing of entries by Simmers’ retained counsel, Robert W. Bright, calling for Evans’ removal from the case.
In August 2011, Bright was terminated as a Gallia County Public Defender after he was removed from approximately 50 felony cases by the court following the creation of a conflict in a 2011 case between himself and Evans.
According to information filed with the clerk of courts in this 2011 case, State v. Gleason, during a plea hearing on July 25, 2011, the defendant, Ricky Gleason, advised the court that he did not wish to enter into the plea agreement. The case was then set for jury trial.
Following this, Bright, on behalf of Gleason, filed a motion requesting the court to accept the defendant’s plea change and the plea agreement signed by the defendant and recommended by the prosecuting attorney.
According to the documents, Gleason stated that on the morning of the plea hearing on July 25, 2011, he was not attempting to “play games” with the court and was conflicted as he was just made aware that he would be sent to prison earlier than expected and immediately following the plea hearing.
A later motion signed by Evans stated that Bright was “critical” of the court in his motion asking the court to accept the guilty plea.
“The Court finds that while Defense Counsel’s attitude toward the Court as expressed in the instant motion may not rise to the level of Professional Misconduct or to the level of being contemptuous, it certainly is not acceptable behavior. … The expressions and attitudes of Defense Counsel as exhibited and announced in the instant motion toward this Court compromises the Court’s ability to avoid any appearance of bias, prejudice, or to be fair and impartial as it relates to Defense Counsel,” the entry reads.
In an entry filed by in the William Simmers case on July 17, Bright gives notice of his appearance as counsel in this case and further moves the court to assign a different judge to hear the case due to the conflict between himself and Judge Evans. Bright further asked the court to continue the plea deadline and jury trial in this matter.
On July 30, the deadline to file a plea agreement in the case against Simmers, Bright filed a second entry with the Supreme Court of Ohio — an “affidavit of disqualification” for Evans in this case.
Within the entry, Bright states that he has received no order or other response from the Court in relation to the motion filed on July 17, and, as Judge Evans has stated in a previous entry filed in the case against Gleason, the court cannot be impartial as it relates to cases on which Bright is counsel.
“Judge Evans own words confirm that a conflict exists between Judge Evans and I - ‘in this case or… any other case in the future,’” Bright writes in the entry.
Bright, therefore, requests that Evans be disqualified to hear the matter against Simmers and he further requests that the supreme court issue a standing order finding Evans disqualified to hear any case on which Bright is counsel of record.
In an entry filed with the clerk of courts on August 9, Evans voluntarily recused himself from this case.
A second entry filed on Wednesday and signed by Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor states that, as Evans has voluntarily recused himself from the case against Simmers, Bright’s request for disqualification is not applicable and the request for a standing order disqualifying Evans in all future cases in which he is counsel is pending.
The chief justice further states that the appointment of a visiting judge to preside over the case against Simmers will be addresses in a separate entry to be compiled by the supreme court at a later date.