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State denies responsibility in lawsuit over Reagan Tokes murder

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    Reagan Tokes

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    Brian Golsby listens to testimony during the first day of his sentencing hearing on March 16 at the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas in Columbus, Ohio. Golsby, 30, was found guilty on nine charges stemming from the February 2017 kidnapping, robbery, rape and murder of Ohio State University student Reagan Tokes.

    COLUMBUS DISPATCH

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COLUMBUS — The state of Ohio contends it was not responsible for what the “horrible, evil, unspeakable man,” that is Brian Lee Golsby, did to Reagan Tokes last year as it urged dismissal of a lawsuit filed by the family of the murdered former Monclova Township resident.

“When such a crime has taken place, the family and the public look for answers to the unanswerable question of why such a thing could occur,” the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction argued in its June response to the lawsuit filed in Ohio Court of Claims.

The family is seeking an unspecified amount of damages.

“They look to anyone or anything who might be responsible,” DRC argued. “But under Ohio law, and the law of most states, only the perpetrator himself can be blamed for his acts — and other people cannot be held civilly responsible for the criminal acts of that person, unless they had a ‘special relationship’ with the victim or the perpetrator.”

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Reagan Tokes

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The paths of Ms. Tokes, a 21-year-old senior at Ohio State University, and Golsby crossed at random on the night of Feb. 8, 2017, as she left work at a Columbus restaurant. Over more than two hours he abducted her, raped her, forced her to withdraw cash from an automated teller, shot her twice in the head in a suburban park, and stole her car.

Golsby had been released from prison the prior November after completing a sentence for attempted rape. Despite being under the supervision of DRC’s Adult Parole Authority, being equipped with a GPS ankle monitor, and staying in a non- profit, transitional residential facility, he engaged in a streak of robberies and assaults that was ultimately interrupted by his arrest for Ms. Tokes’ murder.

The GPS gathered data on his movements, information later used to digitally place him at the scene of each crime, but the device was not monitored in real time to prevent his crimes. He is serving multiple life sentences.

Robert B. Newman, the Cincinnati attorney for the Tokes family, wrote in his response filed Tuesday that the suit does not allege DRC had a “special relationship” with Ms. Tokes but rather with Golsby. It argues Golsby was under the supervision of APA, that his parole officer had placed him in the transitional housing program, and that the parole officer had the authority to rearrest him following multiple curfew violations but did not do so.

“Plaintiff adequately alleges that defendant breached its duty to assure that any criminal offender under its control [in this case Golsby] is properly secured or confined during curfew hours and that breach of that duty proximately caused the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Reagan Tokes,” the estate’s response reads.

The suit alleges that DRC should have rearrested Golsby after he committed three minor infractions of the conditions placed on his release, for placing him in the residential Exit Program, and for not tracking his movements 24 hours a day.

“While 24/7 real-time monitoring of the exact location of thousands of offenders wearing ankle monitors might be theoretically possible, it would also be extraordinarily expensive and so not feasible given the numerous competing budgetary priorities,” the state argues.

The Tokes family’s response attempts to use this argument against the state.

“DRC has not even undertaken monitoring activities,” their response reads. “It cannot claim an immunity for a matter that it has declined to undertake. Again, the evidence will show that no one was disciplined for failing to ‘monitor’.”

The Tokes family has worked with lawmakers to try to change state law. The Ohio House recently passed a bill that would, among other things, require restrictions to be placed on released offenders’ GPS devices to result in real-time alerts of violations, set standards for parole officer caseloads, and require the hiring of more officers to keep caseloads at a reasonable level.

House Bill 365 is now in the Senate, which already passed a separate bill inspired by Ms. Tokes’ murder that focuses largely on sentencing, not parole and GPS issues. Both chambers have recessed for the summer.

A court of claims magistrate has dismissed the nonprofit Exit Program, the transitional residential facility, as a defendant in the lawsuit, noting that the court is meant for claims against state entities. A separate claim has been filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

Contact Jim Provance at jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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