The Ohio Supreme Court has appointed a new judge to preside over an appeal of former state Rep. Steve Kraus’ felony theft conviction.
Judge Patricia Ann Cosgrove, a retired judge from Summit County Court of Common Pleas, was assigned by Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor last week.
Judge Dale Crawford, who was a visiting judge from Franklin County, was removed from the case in part because of his social relationship with the former Democratic lawmaker Kraus defeated in 2014.
In removing Judge Crawford, Justice O’Connor said that the reassignment should not imply misconduct by Judge Crawford or support for Kraus’ allegations.
“Even in cases where no evidence of actual bias or prejudice is apparent, a judge’s disqualification may be appropriate to avoid an appearance of impropriety or when the public’s confidence in the integrity of the judicial system is at issue,” Justice O’Connor wrote.
The next step, according to Kraus’ attorney, Geoffrey Oglesby of Sandusky, is for Judge Cosgrove to appoint a special prosecutor and schedule a hearing on his motion for a new trial.
Judge Cosgrove has been active as an appointed judge since retiring in 2011, when she cited a family health concern. She was a common pleas judge for 18 years.
Three years ago, Kraus upset then-Rep. Chris Redfern, who doubled at the time as chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, to capture the 89th District representing Ottawa and Erie counties. The seat had been in Democratic hands for decades.
But the Sandusky Realtor and auctioneer was removed from office months later after he was convicted of taking antiques from an elderly woman’s Danbury Township home without her permission. He was replaced by his former Republican colleagues with now-Rep. Steve Arndt (R., Port Clinton).
Kraus’ conviction was upheld by the 6th District Court of Appeals, but he has filed a motion for a new trial. He argues he was a victim of a “political hit job.”
Kraus sought the replacement of the judge as a pro se filing, claiming that the judge failed to accept his filings and that Judge Crawford and Mr. Redfern were social acquaintances.
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