CLEVELAND — Former Cuyahoga County Jail Director Ken Mills was found guilty by a jury of four misdemeanor counts of falsification and dereliction of duty in his criminal trial that ended Friday, and was found not guilty of a felony charge of tampering with records. Investigators said he lied to county council about his role in blocking the hiring of nurses inside the jail leading up to the string of eight inmate deaths in the last six months of 2018.
A jury made up of seven men and five women deliberated for 6.5. hours over the last two days. Their verdicts are as follows:
- Count 1 is a felony tampering with records—Not guilty
- Count 2 is misdemeanor falsification—guilty
- Count 3 is misdemeanor falsification—guilty
- Count 4 is misdemeanor dereliction of duty—guilty
- Count 5 is misdemeanor dereliction of duty— guilty
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost reacted to the verdict Friday.
“Under Mills' watch, drugs flowed freely and medical care did not. Inmates were attacked by corrections officers,” Yost said. “With this conviction, Mills can think about his own potential time behind bars - and hope that it will run better than the hellhole he ran for Cuyahoga County."
During closing arguments Thursday, prosecutors accused Mills of failing to do his job when he pushed ahead with plans to regionalize the Cuyahoga County jail by charging cities and suburbs to house their inmates despite the lock-up already being overcrowded and understaffed.
Defense attorneys painted Mills as a fall guy for problems inside the jail.
"They want you to hold him accountable," said defense attorney Kevin Spellacy. "From the top down, if you believe it was broken, they should have known, and they should have done something. And if he was the problem, why wasn’t he gone?"
Mills eventually did resign in November 2018, days before the release of the US Marshal's report which called conditions inside the jail "inhumane."
Mills’ attorney says not much has changed in the troubled jail since his client resigned.
"I’ve heard the same complaints and the same issues for 30-plus years. whether he’s fully responsible or whether he’s a scapegoat, that’s probably for somebody else to decide," said Spellacy.
Spellacy said while he is disappointed in the jury’s guilty verdicts, Mills is relieved the jury found him not guilty of the most serious charge, felony tampering with evidence. That charge stemmed from allegations Mills lied during a video recording of county council’s Public Safety Committee Meeting.
"The key for us was the felony. Really, that’s the trial. I don’t try too many misdemeanor cases, let’s put it that way," he said.
Mills will be sentenced on Friday, Oct. 8 at 11:00 a.m. in the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.
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