Created on Friday, 10 January 2014 Written by AMANDA LEE MYERS, Associated Press
CINCINNATI (AP) — An Ohio juvenile court judge backdated court records in an apparent effort to prevent her rulings from being overturned, prosecutors said in announcing an eight-count felony indictment against her.
Hamilton County Judge Tracie Hunter was set to appear in court next week on charges that include tampering with evidence, theft in office and forgery. She did not immediately return a call for comment Friday.
Her indictment follows an investigation by two special prosecutors prompted by a memo accusing Hunter or someone in her office of backdating court documents in "a conscious act of deception."
In a Sept. 13 memo to Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, chief assistant prosecuting attorney Bill Breyer wrote that the first case of backdating relates to a July 23 oral ruling by Hunter preventing prosecutors from introducing evidence at a trial.
Prosecutors had one week to appeal the written version of that order, which wasn't filed until Aug. 22 but was backdated to appear as though it were filed on July 23, according to the memo, which cites an affidavit obtained from the court's software provider.
Another ruling was backdated by a week, the memo says.
Hunter also is accused of using her county-issued credit card to pay court fees stemming from lawsuits against her and ordering that her brother — who provided security for the court before he was fired — be paid overtime.
In a separate controversy, the Ohio Supreme Court has held Hunter in contempt for barring Cincinnati Enquirer reporters from her courtroom after the newspaper published the names of six juveniles charged in 2012 with badly beating a man in suburban North College Hill.
The Ohio 1st District Court of Appeals ruled to allow Enquirer reporters into the courtroom, but Hunter later said their access would be conditional on the newspaper not publishing the juveniles' names. The newspaper called that a constitutional violation of their press freedom rights and argued that the appellate court's ruling gave it access without conditions.
The appellate court agreed, finding Hunter in contempt in July. Hunter appealed, saying she was following juvenile court rules and denying that she was in contempt.
The Ohio Supreme Court upheld that ruling on Dec. 20.