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Prosecutor won't charge Hudson mayor for comments that led to threats against school board members

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Posted at 3:29 PM, Nov 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-16 16:06:32-05

HUDSON, Ohio — Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh announced Tuesday no charges would be filed against Hudson Mayor Craig Shubert who spoke at a school board meeting in September accusing educators of "essentially" distributing child pornography. While Walsh determined those comments did result in dozens of threats from around the country against school members, and there was a “significant lapse of judgment” by Shubert, there wasn’t sufficient evidence to prove violations of the laws took place.

“As a prosecutor and a mother, I am always concerned about claims of individuals being involved in child pornography. However, in this case, these allegations were false and caused numerous public servants to be victimized,” Walsh said in a statement Tuesday.

The prosecutor’s office investigated after Shubert appeared at a board of education meeting on Sept. 13 to protest the use of a controversial, college-age book. He said the board would face criminal charges if they didn’t resign for allowing "642 Things to Write About" into the curriculum. The course required a signed waiver from parents for students to participate.

“It has come to my attention that your educators are distributing essentially what is child pornography in the classroom," Shubert told the board during the meeting. "I’ve spoken to a judge this evening. She’s already confirmed that. So I’m going to give you a simple choice—you either choose to resign from the Board of Education or you will be charged."

Following his appearance at the school board meeting, a group of Hudson residents started a petition to recall Shubert.

RELATED: Group of residents gathering signatures on recall petition for Hudson mayor

The recall has since been paused for reasons including the re-election of several school board and council members, and the desire to save the city from a costly special election. Residents said they would show their displeasure at the ballot box when Shubert is up for re-election.

The investigation found the comments made by Shubert went viral locally and nationally, the prosecutor’s office said. Members of the Board of Education and school administrators received over 150 threatening and profane phone calls and emails.

According to the findings, many of the calls came from anonymous numbers, originating primarily from Texas and Pennsylvania. And since the phone calls were unidentified, subpoenas can’t be issued at this time. Authorities attempted to trace the threatening emails but were unsuccessful as they come from encrypted servers in Switzerland.

As part of the investigation, the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office looked into whether Shubert committed the crimes of disrupting a lawful meeting or inciting panic. Investigators determined the allegations of school-sponsored dissemination of child pornography resulted in numerous threats to the school board members.

RELATED: Writing prompt book sparks controversy among parents in Hudson

Shubert told investigators that prior to the board meeting on Sept. 13, he attended a political fundraiser for a Stow City Council where a state senator advised Shubert on the matter and he shared the images from the book with a Summit County Domestic Relations judge, who, according to Shubert and the Akron Beacon Journal, confirmed she saw some of the writing prompts and was reacting as a concerned mother. Investigators said the judge declined to talk to them for the investigation.

Investigators determined Shubert was not planning on attending the board meeting until the issue he spoke about was raised by the senator and the judge he spoke to. The prosecutor's office said without their cooperation, they don’t have the necessary evidence to prove his intent.

“While my office’s report into this matter may seem harsh, the reckless conduct by Hudson’s Mayor resulted in threats, fear, and hate-filled words from around the country," Walsh said. "The people behind those threats were uneducated about the matter and accepted the word of Mayor Shubert because of his elected position, not because of any fact. What makes this worse is that after the Mayor was advised he was wrong, he participated in a video with an Ohio Senate candidate, which was shared on social media and promoted these false theories. That video makes it look like this was all a staged, despicable political stunt intended to affect the outcome of an upcoming election and that is shameful.”

News 5 has reached out to the mayor's office for comment, but we have not yet heard back.

Read the full report from the Summit County Prosecutor's Office here.

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