Appeals Court Throws Out Conviction

The Newark Advocate

September 18, 2007

By: Russ Zimmer
Advocate Reporter

NEWARK – An appellate court's reversal of criminal charges against a Johnstown man is a positive personal development, but it will not affect his excessive force lawsuit against the village, according to the defendant's and plaintiff's attorneys.

The Fifth District Court of Appeals threw out the conviction of Bill Ashbrook, 57, for operating a vehicle while intoxicated and criminal damaging stemming from a February 2005 traffic stop.

The appellate court sided with Ashbrook on Sept. 7 because it agreed his right to a speedy trial had been violated by the trial court.

Because the crimes he was accused of were misdemeanors, the judges of the Fifth District said the Licking County Municipal Court had 90 days to adjudicate him and was unable to meet that timeline, according to the appellate court's written opinion.

That same February encounter with two Johnstown police officers is the source of Ashbrook's civil lawsuit against the village, currently in an Ohio branch of the U.S. District Court.

Ashbrook reportedly was weaving as he drove home in the early hours of Feb. 25, 2005, and was stopped by Johnstown police office Josh Boudinot, according to court documents.

The accounts of what happened next diverge into two versions.

The Johnstown police story paints Ashbrook as an intoxicated, abusive and destructive man who attempted, and partially succeeded, in trashing the department's holding area.

Ashbrook's version has him trying to comply, with Boudinot and fellow officer Marvin Gifford roughing him up to the point of giving Ashbrook a broken hand and rendering him unconscious several times.

David Baer, Ashbrook's attorney, said ultimately his client's federal civil rights case has more to do with what happened during his arrest than whether or not Ashbrook was guilty of the crimes of which he was accused.

Ashbrook said he is glad the charges will be thrown out.

"They are going to clear everything off like it never happened," he said.

Steve LaForge, who is representing the two officers, said the overturning of the conviction does not affect his clients, either.

Up next for the civil case is a summary judgment hearing in November, when LaForge will ask the court to throw out the case.

"My clients categorically deny the allegations," he said, declining further comment on the specifics of the case.

If the judge disagrees with his position, the case could proceed to a jury trial.