MARIETTA, Ohio (WTAP) - UPDATE 4/19/19
A contested hearing is set for May 21 in the civil case involving the complaint to have Washington County prosecutor Kevin Rings removed from office.
After local common pleas judges recused themselves from the case, the Ohio Supreme Court appointed retired Cuyahoga County Judge Janet Burnside Thursday. She has set a hearing for May 21 at 11 a.m. in Washington County to discuss a preliminary injunction.
"It would be an order if we prevail on what we ask to prevent him from entering the office," said Ethan Vessels, the attorney representing the plaintiffs of the complaint, "and functioning in the office until there’s a final hearing."
After filing the complaint Tuesday, Vessels said 10 more local attorneys have signed on to the complaint and he believes that number could grow. He added that the complaint reads that the basis for his removal is if he has committed misconduct in office. In addition to his guilty conviction last week, Vessels said they have plenty of evidence of misconduct to show but he hopes it doesn't come to that.
"We truly do not want that hearing to happen. Our goal is for a resignation," he said. "I think it would be catastrophic for Mr. Rings and frankly our community if we have to have a contested hearing on all of the misconduct that will come out of the hearing."
Vessels also alluded that the evidence of misconduct uncovered during the trial is just a small portion of what has actually been discovered.
"We don't want to have to further embarrass Mr. Rings," Vessels said, "and we certainly don't want to embarrass these women who are corresponding or were corresponding with Mr. Rings on his work account...We have thousands and thousands of emails involving other women. And the emails are absolutely clear that there’s been prosecutorial misconduct."
"None of us take any pleasure in this. We want it to be over as quickly as possible."
We reached out to Rings' attorney, Dennis McNamara, for comment who said that his client is aware of the civil complaint but has not comment at this time.
McNamara added that he has filed a motion for acquittal in his client's criminal case, requesting the judge overturn the jury's guilty verdict.
For now, Rings' sentencing is still set for May 16.
If Rings were to resign, the Washington County commissioners would have to appoint someone temporarily and then within 45 days, the Republican central committee would choose someone to finish the rest of the term until the next general election.
Retired Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judge Janet R. Burnside has been appointed by the Supreme Court of Ohio to preside over the civil complaint case between Sheriff Larry Mincks and several local attorneys against Kevin Rings, motioning to have Rings removed from office.
The original complaint was amended Thursday to reflect six more local attorneys, who joined the complaint.
A complaint was filed in Washington County Common Pleas Court late Tuesday to have county prosecutor Kevin Rings removed from office.
The plaintiffs in the case include Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks and 12 local attorneys. All are being represented by the Marietta firm Fields Dehmlow and Vessels.
"We felt that this would be beneficial to the entire community, the defense bar and as well as prosecution," Sheriff Mincks said.
The motion for removal is based on section 309.05 of the Ohio Revised Code which states that "one or more taxpayers...may file a complaint with distinct charges of gross misconduct by a prosecuting attorney...and if it appears the prosecuting attorney has been guilty of gross misconduct...the court shall remove the prosecuting attorney from office."
The complaint also asks for a temporary restraining order, which would immediately prohibit Rings from entering the prosecutor's office and performing any of his duties.
Sheriff Mincks says in the wake of everything that has happened involving this case, he believes this is the best way to start to restore the public’s trust in the office.
"I think that Mr. Rings needs to step aside," he said "and let someone who will be appointed by the commissioners to you know step in and try to sort of clean up the situation that they’re in."
A judge still needs to be assigned to the case. Mincks says similar to the trial, our two local judges will most likely recuse themselves, which means the state supreme court will have to step in a appoint someone impartial for the case.
Michael Lee Snyder, the foreman of the jury in the trial of Kevin Rings, said after the verdict Friday, that jurors struggled with the testimony they heard during the first four days of the trial.
"Some felt very strongly about the coercion, but less strongly about the (sexual) imposition. Some others felt exactly the opposite. So it did take some discussion to get there. I think the text messages were damning, and it's my understanding we didn't see a fraction of them, so that was bad."
Neither Rings or his attorney would comment on the verdict to reporters.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost issued a statement after the verdict saying, "The law applies to everybody, great or small, powerful or powerless."
The Special Prosecutions section and Bureau of Criminal Investigation of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office prosecuted and investigated the case, respectively.
UPDATE 4/12/19 2:45 P.M.
A jury in Washington County has returned a split verdict in the trial of Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Rings, finding him guilty of coercion and not guilty of sexual imposition.
The two-man, six-woman panel deliberated a little more than five hours over two days before returning the verdict about 2:30 p.m. Friday.
Rings, 56, who has been the county prosecutor since being appointed in 2015, could get up to 90 days in jail for the misdemeanor conviction.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. May 16.
Earlier Friday, Special Judge Patricia Cosgrove granted a request by the jury to tour Rings' office in the Washington County Courthouse.
We will have updates online and a full report during WTAP News @ 5 and 6.
UPDATE: 4/12/19 11:30 A.M.
Jurors deliberating in the coercion and sexual imposition case against Washington County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Rings requested a tour of his courthouse office Friday morning.
Special Judge Patricia Cosgrove granted the request, and the two-man, six-woman panel was able to go through the office.
The jury began deliberating late Thursday afternoon after hearing three days of testimony in the case.
If he's convicted, Rings, who has been the county's prosecutor since 2015, could get up to 150 days in jail - 90 days for coercion and 60 days for sexual imposition - and be fined up to $1,250.
Jury deliberations resumed Friday morning in the misdemeanor trial of Washington County prosecutor Kevin Rings.
The defense called Rings as its final witness Thursday before resting its case.
Rings faces up to 150 days in jail (90 days for coercion and 60 days for sexual imposition) and $1250 in fines if convicted.
UPDATE: 4/11/19 5 P.M.
A two-man, six-woman jury will resume deliberations Friday morning in the misdemeanor coercion and sexual imposition trial of Washington County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Rings.
Closing arguments and jury instructions in the trial in Washington County Common Pleas Court were completed Thursday afternoon.
Jurors are scheduled to resume their deliberations at 8:45 a.m. Friday.
Rings, who was appointed prosecutor in 2015 and then elected in 2016, spent several hours on the witness stand on Thursday as the second and final defense witness in the case.
At at one point during his testimony, he acknowledged having a sexual encounter in his office with someone who was not his wife. The person and the date of the encountered were not disclosed.
Earlier, Rings answered numerous questions about his office’s involvement in two cases involving Amy Davis, the woman whose allegations that he molested her in his courthouse office led to his indictment.
Davis was a defendant in a March 2017 drug case and later was a victim in another case in which two men were charged in connection with an incident in which Rings testified she went to the hospital after being severely beaten.
Rings also testified about why he reached out to Davis’ attorney to get her phone number during his office’s investigation of the assault. He said he was trying to obtain what he believed to be an incriminating letter that he was told had been smuggled out of the Washington County Jail and forwarded on to Davis.
Rings said Davis confirmed the letter in a phone call but acknowledged he has never seen the letter.
He also testified that he did not reach out to Davis regarding the assault case until after she had pleaded guilty in the earlier drug case.
In earlier testimony, Davis testified she thought it was odd that Rings had reached out to her attorney to get her phone number. She also testified about a series of text messages in which Rings asked her for sexually explicit photos.
Under cross-examination, Rings was asked about inconsistencies in his testimony and an interview he had with an Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations agent in August 2017.
He testified that on July 6, the day Davis said she was molested, the door to his office was ajar. But in the interview with the agent, he said it was “wide” open. When asked about whether he saw a difference between ajar and wide open, Rings responded “no.”
On Wednesday, jurors watched surveillance video of Davis entering and leaving Rings’ office that day. It appeared to corroborate earlier testimony from Sheriff Larry Mincks that her appearance was disheveled as she left the office.
In his testimony, Rings denied any sexual contact with Davis in his office that day.
On Thursday afternoon, Rings also addressed questions from prosecutors about whether he had ever engaged in sexual activity in his office. He answered “yes.” He then answered “yes” when he was asked if it was with someone other than his wife.
After that, prosecutors pressed Rings on past relationships with former interns and friends and it was revealed that BCI investigators downloaded 43,000 emails from his computer as part of their investigation.
Those emails revealed sexually explicit messages from Rings and others, and prosecutors argued that they proved a pattern of behavior that included women owing him for helping them.
In one such past case, Rings said he paid off a traffic violation for a woman and then, according to a work email, said in regards to paying him back, “I have an interest. I just don’t charge monetary interest.”
Rings also testified that he could not define what is considered “sexually explicit” when asked about sexually explicit emails between him and other women.
UPDATE: 4/11/19 10:20 A.M.
Washington County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Rinks began testifying Thursday morning in the fourth day of his misdemeanor trial on coercion and sexual-imposition charges.
The trial began with jury selection and opening arguments on Monday, and prosecutors presented their case Tuesday and Wednesday before resting.
Defense attorneys began calling witnesses late Wednesday afternoon.
UPDATE: 4/10/19 4:10 P.M.
Prosecutors rested their case and defense attorneys began calling witnesses late Wednesday afternoon in the misdemeanor coercion and sexual imposition trial of Washington County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Rings.
The first defense witness to testify was the mother-in-law of Rings' accuser Amy Davis.
Violet Marie Smith, who has custody of Davis' son, testified that Davis told her prior to June 30, 2017, that she had a plan and was going "get Rings" back.
Smith also testified that she thinks Davis is using drugs again but has no proof of that.
One of the final prosecution witnesses, Jennifer Comisford, an investigator with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, told the jury she at first questioned Rings about the text messages between him and Amy Davis without telling him she had copies of them.
She testified that he "minimized the sexuality" in the texts. After telling him she had the texts, she said he altered his responses slightly and said he should not have responded the way he did.
During her interview with Rings, Comisford said he denied any inappropriate sexual contact with Davis in his office on July 6, the day Davis alleges he molested her.
Comisford said Rings confirmed meeting Davis that day and told her the door was "wide" open and that he had no sexual contact with her.
Comisford also testified that Rings told her he did not unbutton Davis' shirt as purported to from Davis' claims and that he didn't notice during their meeting that it had been unbuttoned.
Prosecutors played a surveillance video earlier Wednesday that was taken on July 6 at his office at the Washington County Courthouse. They said it showed Davis leaving Rings' office after the meeting and that her appearance was disheveled.
That supported testimony on Tuesday from Sheriff Larry Mincks.
The two-man, six-woman jury also heard testimony Wednesday afternoon from another woman about her relationship with Rings.
Heather Clark testified that Rings helped her in her divorce case and then later asked her to send him R-rated photos. She also said later he told her that she owed him for helping her.
Rings has not been charged with any wrongdoing related to Clark's accusations.
Special Judge Patricia Cosgrove is hearing the case in Washington County Common Pleas Court.
UPDATE: 4/10/19 11:55 A.M.
Jurors in the misdemeanor trial of Washington County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Rings were shown surveillance video Wednesday morning of his accuser appearing disheveled as she left his office on the day she alleges she was molested by Rings.
The video of Amy Davis taken on July 6 at the Washington County Courthouse supported testimony from Sheriff Larry Mincks on Tuesday.
Rings, who was elected prosecuting attorney in 2016, is on trial on charges of coercion and sexual imposition.
Prosecutors continued calling witnesses Wednesday morning on the second day of testimony in the trial.
Among them was Heather Clark, who testified about her relationship with Rings, who had helped her in a divorce case.
She testified about how their relationship became personal through text messages. On multiple occasions, she said Rings asked her for R-rated photos. She also testified that he continually said that she owed him for helping her.
Rings has not been charged with any wrongdoing related to Clark's accusations.
UPDATE: 4/10/19 10:55 A.M.
The trial of Washington County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Rings on two misdemeanor charges resumed Wednesday morning with an effort by his attorney to prevent a woman's testimony and the introduction of text messages between her and Rings.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys met in chambers with Special Judge Patricia Cosgrove to discuss the motion before testimony resumed.
McNamara argued that jurors should not be allowed to see the text messages because they are not relevant to the events of July 6. That's the day Amy Davis of Belpre has alleged that Rings molested her in his office at the Washington County Courthouse.
The woman, Heather Clark, has alleged that Rings helped her in a divorce case in exchange for sexually explicit photos.
In testimony Wednesday morning, Washington County Sheriff's Sgt. Kelly McGilton said that on Oct. 30, 2017, she received a call from a friend about an alleged complaint against Rings from Clark, who was a volunteer at the animal shelter where McGilton's friend worked.
McGilton said Clark then reached out to her directly and she received texts from Clark. Those texts between Clark and Rings allegedly portrayed Rings offering to use his position to help Clark.
Rings is on trial on charges of coercion and sexual imposition.
The trial began on Monday with jury selection and opening arguments. Prosecutors began calling witnesses on Tuesday. Among them was Davis, who spent more than two hours on the stand.
UPDATE: 4/9/19 4:30 P.M.
Jurors in the trial of Washington County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Rings heard testimony on Tuesday from a woman at the center of the case against him.
Rings, who has been the county's prosecutor since 2016, is on trial in Washington County Common Pleas Court on charges of coercion and sexual imposition, both misdemeanors. He's accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with Amy Davis, who was a witness in one criminal case and a defendant in another.
Davis spent more than two hour on the witness stand testifying about her life and how she got hooked on drugs she was given to deal with pain after having a Cesarean section. She said she only did it to be alert so she could take care of her children.
Davis also talked about her involvement in a drug-trafficking case and about text messages she exchanged with Rings. She said she thought it was odd that Rings reached out to her attorney to get her cellphone number.
She testified that later Rings, in a series of text messages, asked for pictures and made comments such as "give me one more picture to dream about."
Davis also testified that she was afraid that if she didn't continue her discussions with Rings he might use his position as prosecutor to influence her court sentence.
She also described an alleged encounter in Rings' office in which she said he started kissing her and put his hand up her shirt.
"I felt violated for sure, and trapped," she said. "I hated it."
When she left the office, Davis said she told the person picking her up that she “couldn’t believe she just got molested by the county prosecutor.”
That friend, Tim Collins, testified later about hearing Davis’ remarks and said she seemed to be withdrawn after the incident.
Meanwhile, defense attorneys questioned Davis’ credibility, pointing out two legal documents where she lied about being employed and omitted a charge on a court document concerning custody of her children.
Prosecutors said later said that she omitted that charge because it only asked for specific charges and her drug-trafficking charge did not fall under that.
Davis, however, was visibly upset on the witness stand, and admitted that she couldn't remember certain specific things.
Meanwhile, Washington County Sheriff’s Lt. Timothy Lockhart also testified Tuesday afternoon about a meeting he had with Rings about a case involving Davis’ former boyfriend, who was accused of assaulting her. Lockhart said the meeting became more about Davis.
Lockhart said Rings told him he thought Davis was an unreliable witness but that she was an attractive woman.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Washington County Sheriff’s Detective Tyson Estes testified about his arrest of Davis in a drug-trafficking case. He said that when he met with Rings about the case, Rings told him that if he was meeting with Davis alone he should be concerned. He added that Rings also told him that Davis "oozes sexuality."
Estes also said that based on his past dealings with Davis as a law-enforcement officer he didn't consider her to be credible.
In earlier testimony Tuesday morning, jurors heard from Vienna Police Officer Don Lindsey, who said he received evidence, including photos and screenshots of text messages allegedly between Davis and Rings.
He handed off the information to Lt. Josh Staats of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
Both officers identified Rings in the messages and testified that some of the messages were possibly inappropriate and sexual in nature.
UPDATE: 4/8/19 5:45 P.M.
Jury selection and opening statements have been completed in the trial of Washington County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Rings.
A jury of two men, six women and four alternates was chosen late this afternoon, and attorneys from both sides presented their opening statements shortly before 5 p.m.
Rings is charged with coercion and sexual imposition, both misdemeanors, for allegedly having inappropriate sexual contact with a woman who was both a witness in one case and a defendant in another.
The crimes are alleged to have happened in July 2017.
Rings was elected prosecuting attorney in 2015 and worked as an assistant prosecutor for more than 20 years.
The trial in Washington County Common Pleas Court before Special Judge Patricia Cosgrove is expected to resume Tuesday morning.
UPDATE: 4/8/19 10:10 A.M.
Jury selection is underway in the trial of Washington County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Rings, who is accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with a woman who was both a witness in one case and a defendant in another.
A grand jury indicted Rings in June 2018 on charges of coercion and sexual-imposition charges, both of which are misdemeanor offenses.
Special Judge Patricia Cosgrove has been appointed to hear the case, which is expected to last several days.
UPDATE: 1/25/19 12:15 P.M.
A judge has granted another motion to delay the trial of Washington County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Rings on two misdemeanor charges.
Rings’ trial on coercion and sexual-imposition charges is now scheduled for 9 a.m. Feb. 27. It had been scheduled for Feb. 6.
According to records filed Wednesday in Common Pleas Court, visiting Judge Patricia Cosgrove granted the request to delay the trial while court officials continue to complete a transcript of grand jury testimony.
The trial was originally scheduled for Dec. 11 but was moved to Feb. 6 to allow time for the grand jury testimony to be transcribed.
Rings was indicted in June on the charges stemming from accusations that he had inappropriate sexual contact in his office with a woman who was both a witness in one case and a defendant in another.
UPDATE: 12/7/2018 12:00 PM
The trial of Washington County Prosecutor Kevin Rings has been changed to February 6 in Washington County Common Pleas Court.
The continuance was approved by visiting Judge Patricia Cosgrove and filed in court December 6.
The trial, on two misdemeanor charges, was originally scheduled to begin Tuesday, December 11.
A hearing in the case against Washington County Prosecutor Kevin Rings addressed potential witnesses and motions regarding his upcoming trial.
Partly at issue is admissibility as witnesses of four women, also stated to have past issues with Rings. It has been said one of them had a relationship with Rings when he was an assistant prosecutor more than 20 years ago.
Rings' attorney, Dennis McNamara, argued a large number of witnesses were brought before the grand jury that indicted Rings in June.
"They brought those people into the grand jury expecting all sorts of felonies and other charges, I believe," McNamara argued before Judge Patricia Cosgrove Friday morning. "But they only got two misdemeanors, and they want to present all the same stuff they presented to the grand jury and they rejected."
The special prosecutor in the case adds, among the people he would like to see at Rings' trial, is an expert who would discuss the ethics behind the offenses Rings is accused of.
"If the defense is what we think it is," said Matt Donahue, Special Prosecutor, "we intend to produce an expert report that this is not a legitimate law enforcement act, that's appropriate for a prosecutor to do."
Judge Cosgrove also set Rings' trial date for December 10. A pre-trial hearing is set for early November.
The special prosecutor in the case against Kevin Rings releases a "Bill of Particulars" outlining complaints against the Washington County Prosecutor.
The report outlines numerous text messages between Rings and his primary accuser in late June and early July, 2017.
It also details a meeting between the two July 6. 2017, in which Rings is accused of inappropriately touching the victim.
Special Prosecutor Matthew Donahue's report mentions an unnamed assistant prosecutor saying the meeting was, "a sexual harassment case waiting to happen".
The bill of particulars was released at the request of Rings' attorney.
Donahue also filed an intent to produce evidence regarding other alleged victims.
In that statement, Donahue says Rings "has a pattern of conduct, in part using the prosecutor's office to target women who were in difficult or vulnerable times in their life">
Donahue has asked that statements from four other women be admitted in Rings' upcoming trial.
Washington County prosecutor Kevin Rings was in court Thursday for his pretrial hearing.
Rings was indicted last month on two misdemeanor charges, one count of coercion and one count of sexual imposition.
Rings' defense attorney Dennis McNamara filed a motion on July 2 to modify the conditions of Rings' bond, which specified no contact with the victim or any witnesses called by the prosecution. That motion was granted by Judge Patricia Cosgrove.
The defense also issued a motion asking the court to limit the presentation of certain evidence disclosed by the state.
McNamara says much of the evidence is not relevant to the charges and would only confuse or mislead the jury.
UPDATE: 6/8/2018, 2:45 P.M.
While Kevin Rings remains in office, there's questions about what cases he can handle-without a potential conflict of interest.
The Washington County Commission doesn't have any authority-beyond budgets-over the prosecutor's office.
But commissioner Ron Feathers said it has been approached in the past by prosecutors to appoint special legal counsel in other conflict of interest cases.
Feathers says, however, such a request has not been made in this case.
He says, while the commission does not have unlimited funds, it will do whatever is possible to ensure cases move along.
A conflict of interest could involve cases dealing with crimes such as those Rings is charged with: coercion and sexual imposition.
In 2014, a special prosecutor was appointed in Kanawha County to hear cases with charges identical to those filed against Prosecutor Mark Plants.
According to our sister station, WSAZ, Plants at the time was charged with domestic battery in a spanking incident involving one of his sons, and the prosecutor's office was disqualified by a judge from hearing involving crimes of violence by a parent or guardian, abuse and neglect cases and violations of domestic violence protection orders.
UPDATE: 6/7/2018, 2:25 P.M.
Washington County Commission president Ron Feathers says the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation began investigating Washington County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Rings in 2017, after Rings allegedly touched a female inappropriately in his office.
On Thursday, a Washington County Grand Jury indicted Kevin Rings, 55, of Marietta, on one count of coercion, a second-degree misdemeanor, and one count of sexual imposition, a third-degree misdemeanor.
Feathers released the following statement about the indictment, "Now the Washington County Board of Commissioners does not tolerate misconduct and these are serious charges however Prosecutor Rings is presumed innocent and is entitled to defend himself in court we are confident that this case will proceed through the criminal justice system and out of respect to the legal process we will not comment on this case while criminal charges are pending."
Feathers says the commission does not have control in the placing or displacing of elected officials like Rings.
The incidents allegedly occurred in July 2017.
Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks says Rings pleaded not guilty to both charges.
He was released on his own recognizance on the condition he has no contact with the victim.
Rings still currently serves as the Washington County Prosecuting Attorney. He is due in court for a pre-trial in July.
ORIGINAL STORY: 6/7/2018, 2:03 P.M.
A Washington County grand jury has indicted Washington County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Rings on misdemeanor charges of coercion and sexual imposition.
Kevin Rings, 55, of Marietta, was indicted on one count of coercion, a second-degree misdemeanor, and one count of sexual imposition, a third-degree misdemeanor.
Prosecutors say in July 2017, Rings allegedly made inappropriate, sexual contact in his office with a woman who was both a witness in one case and a defendant in another.
The case is being prosecuted by the Ohio Attorney General’s Special Prosecutions Section.
It was investigated by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.