EASTLAKE, Ohio — The social media furor continues to surround the arrest of a 20-year-old man last week for assaulting a 17-year-old male who was allegedly molesting a 5-year-old boy. While many people from all across the country have called for charges against 20-year-old Ricky Adams to be dropped, legal experts believe Eastlake police acted appropriately by arresting Adams and the 17-year-old perpetrator, then letting prosecutors sort the cases out.
Since Adams was arrested and later released on a personal bond, hundreds of people have flooded the Eastlake Police Department’s official Facebook page. Dozens more have called into the offices of Mayor Dennis Morley and Chief Larry Reik.
Some of those callers have left profanity-laced voicemails.
Eastlake police arrested Adams last week on suspicion of felonious assault after he allegedly attacked the teenager who Adams claims was molesting the young boy. Adams said he was doing laundry when he walked into a room and reported seeing the teen with the boy’s penis in his mouth.
Adams said he regrets posting a video on Facebook showing the 17-year-old’s bloodied face immediately after the assault. The video has since been removed. The 17-year-old has been preliminarily charged with two counts of rape and two counts of gross sexual imposition. His identity has not been released.
“I kind of just blacked out and snapped and didn’t know how to react in that situation,” Adams told News 5. “I pushed the 17-year-old off of him and then he said, ‘What are you going to do about it?’ That’s kind of where I blacked out the most.”
Adams said by witnessing the assault, it triggered painful memories of being molested as a child.
Despite the public outcry denouncing Adams’ arrest, Michael Benza, a senior law instructor at Case Western Reserve University, said Eastlake police treated the situation as they should have.
“The police are getting a lot of flak here for doing exactly what they are supposed to do. We have evidence that two different crimes have been committed in this case. We are going to arrest both of them. We are going to refer this to the prosecutor and the prosecutor will decide what we are going to do,” Benza said. “In some regards you see this oftentimes in domestic violence situations. The police arrive on the scene with a 911 call about a domestic violence situation. The husband has a black eye. The wife is standing there with a frying pan and she has a black eye. [The husband] has a knife in his hand. You just arrest both. They let it get figured out after they get everybody through the process.”
Chief Reik said he was working the day the incident happened and conferred with the shift lieutenant. The chief agreed with the determination to arrest both parties and let prosecutors determine how to best proceed with both cases.
“We’re just one part of the criminal justice system,” Chief Reik said.
Chief Reik said he understands people’s concerns with Adams’ arrest and respects their right to express those concerns, so long as they do so lawfully and respectfully.
Benza said whatever information is uncovered throughout the subsequent investigation will determine how the case proceeds and whether prosecutors will move forward with or drop charges against Adams.
Under Ohio law, someone can use force in order to help another person that they reasonably believe to be in danger. However, that person cannot use more force than what is considered reasonable.
What is considered to be “reasonable force” will be determined by the facts of the case, Benza said.
“One of the questions for the prosecutor is to find out the facts of how much force was being used. What was the nature of the attack that was happening when he came to the defense of the 5-year-old boy, and then was that a proper use of force given the circumstances?” Benza said. “The law would want somebody to step in and rescue that child. The law would want that person and authorize that person to use a degree of force to protect that child. But there may be an issue of too much force.”
Benza, who has more than 20 years of experience as an attorney, said prosecutors might also run into two major hurdles if they opt to proceed with charges against Adams. A potential jury might be sympathetic to Adams for stopping the reported sexual assault. Additionally, the 17-year-old victim of the alleged assault has the constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination.
“The victim of the assault is the defendant in the underlying sexual assault charge. Any attempts to investigate [what happened to the 17-year-old] is going to implicate that person’s Fifth Amendment rights not to talk about the fact that he is a defendant in another charge,” Benza said.
Adams will have his preliminary hearing on April 2.
A GoFundMe page set up to raise money for Adams’ defense has already generated more than $30,000.