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Charges dismissed in Lorain County Head Start sex abuse case

Posted at 5:47 PM, Feb 25, 2022

ELYRIA, Ohio — Nearly three decades after they were convicted of sexually assaulting Lorain County Head Start students, a judge threw out charges against Nancy Smith and Joseph Allen after new evidence surfaced in the case.

Smith, a former Head Start bus driver, was accused of driving the pre-schoolers to Allen's home where prosecutors said the pair sexually assaulted the children.

In 1994, the pair was convicted and spent years in prison.

But Friday, Lorain County Common Pleas Court Judge Chris Cook granted the pair new trials after new evidence surfaced accusing the mother of one the accusers of coaching her daughter to make false allegations.

According to court records, it was an effort by the girl's mother to "get paid."

In court, Smith, who's now 64 years old, had a message for the parents of her accusers.

"That one day you will all answer for this," said Smith. "Not only did you make me a victim, you made my children victims. You took me away from them in the most crucial times of their lives."

After reviewing the case, Lorain County Prosecutor J.D. Tomlinson, who was not in office when the pair was convicted, said he believes no crime was actually committed and asked the judge to dismiss the cases against Smith and Allen.

In court Friday, Tomlinson apologized to the pair.

"To Ms. Smith and to Mr. Allen, I want to say that I apologize to you," said Tomlinson. "Especially for what was done to you and to your families as a result of this ill-conceived prosecution."

The 68-year-old Allen was overcome with emotion as he thanked supporters after the judge's decision, calling this a "bright day."

"It's still some healing that I've to get due to it's been so long," said Allen. "All the emotions. All the family members who passed away. All the suffering. All the things I suffered in this injustice."

Today's decision to dismiss the charges against Allen and Smith does not mean they were wrongfully imprisoned. That's a separate legal process.

Allen said Friday he plans to turn his attention to clearing his name.

Smith said that decision is for another day. She called Friday, a "good day."

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