ASHLAND — A special prosecutor for a case featuring a years-long dispute between two Mifflin council members said Tuesday he doesn’t think the charge fits the crime.
“I believe there may be a criminal offense — I do not believe menacing by stalking fits in this matter,” said Brian Gernert, an attorney based in Bucyrus at a pre-trial hearing.
Gernert is serving as special prosecutor in the case between Fred Craig and Joyce Amos — two Mifflin council members whose neighbor disputes over the last decade came to head earlier this month when Craig was charged with menacing by stalking.
Mifflin’s former solicitor, Mike Brown, believed he was conflicted out of prosecuting the case because it involves two council members. Brown was fired Jan. 20 because “there was no ordinance or resolution voted on to allow (Mayor Vickie Shultz) to enter into a contract.”
Gernert said he is still evaluating the case, but the initial charge of menacing by stalking, a misdemeanor, “may be unable to be proved.” The special prosecutor said Tuesday he might amend the charge to one that fits the facts of the case.
According to Ashland Municipal Court Judge John Good, the facts of the case are murky.
“The complaint itself … the complaint is completely ineffective,” Good said during the pre-trial. “There are no facts alleged in it at all. In fact, it’s impossible for me to tell what Mr. Craig is accused of, and I’m sure Mr. Craig has the same problem.”
Good referred to a complaint, which he described as “not even valid,” that Amos filed with Mifflin police in October that outlines years of incidents between her and Craig that include allegations of vandalism, property damage and verbal abuse.
“I want the case tried on the evidence, for whatever the charge ends up being,” Good said. “I don’t want it tried on what Mr. Craig or Mrs. Amos did 15 years ago, allegedly … I don’t want a (Jerry) Springer episode. If we have a trial, I want a trial.”
Good also said the court “will not be used in political disputes.”
“Now, I’m not saying that’s what’s happening here,” Good said. “It may very well not be.”
The case is scheduled to go to trial on Feb. 17. However, that date could be pushed back because Matt Malone, Craig’s attorney, said he would likely file a motion asking for a continuance.
“Being able to sort through all of this in three weeks is not likely,” he said.
In the meantime, Craig is allowed to have contact with Amos under the condition he won’t harass, harm or threaten Amos.
Amos, however, has been suspended from Mifflin’s council, meaning she has no voting power or authority. State law allows her to be heard, which is set to happen during Mifflin’s February meeting.