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Court: Ohio officers can face intimidation charges

CINCINNATI (AP) — Police officers in Ohio can be convicted of intimidation if they knowingly file false complaints to intimidate or influence witnesses, the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

In issuing that decision, the court also reinstated a former Cincinnati police detective's conviction on an abduction charge and turned down his request to throw out his conviction for intimidation.

The decision stems from the court case against former Detective Julian Steele, 51.

A jury found him guilty in 2010 of abduction and intimidation in the false arrest and nine-day detainment of a 17-year-old boy for a series of robberies.

Steele, who was fired from the force, later admitted to knowing that the teen wasn't involved in the crimes, and prosecutors argued that the detective had the boy held in order to coerce sex from his mother.

A jury found Steele not guilty of rape and sexual battery stemming from a sexual encounter he had with the teen's mother while the boy was being held in a juvenile jail.

Steele's number is unlisted and his Columbus attorney, Gloria Smith, did not immediately return a call for comment Tuesday.

For Steele, Tuesday's ruling means he could have to serve the five-year prison term he got for his convictions.

A judge had allowed the sentence to be delayed as Steele's appeal was winding its way through the courts.

"He belongs in prison and he'll be going there now," said prosecutor Daniel Breyer, who's assigned to the special prosecutions unit in Cincinnati of the Ohio attorney general's office. "I believe the evidence demonstrated his whole purpose in keeping this kid in jail was to gain access to the mom for sexual purposes."

Court records say that in addition to arresting and detaining the teen, Steele elicited a false confession from him by threatening his mother and siblings in an interrogation room.

The court's ruling Tuesday found that officers can use certain kinds of deception to elicit a confession, but not unlawful threats of harm.

The judges wrote that they were "in no way attempting to tie the hands of police officers in their broad authority to arrest and detain suspects," noting that in many cases police must act quickly and decisively.

"Thus, our holding today would reach only the rare circumstances of a police officer depriving a person of his or her liberty when a reasonable police officer would know that there is no probable cause supporting the detention, no matter how brief," the judges wrote.

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