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Published: Thursday, 5/14/2009

Former aide to Marc Dann indicted on 10 counts

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF
Anthony Gutierrez is charged with 10 offenses. Anthony Gutierrez is charged with 10 offenses.
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COLUMBUS - Anthony Gutierrez, the man at the center of a sexual harassment scandal that helped drive former Attorney General Marc Dann from office, faces theft and fraud charges for allegedly using his ties with his long-time friend to benefit himself financially.

Franklin Country Prosecutor Ron O'Brien Thursday announced a 10-count indictment -- six felonies and four first-degree misdemeanors -- against Mr.

Gutierrez one year to the day after Mr. Dann left office just 16 months into his term.

Mr. O'Brien, a Republican, said the timing was not scheduled to coincide with the anniversary.

"It's probably more coincidence than anything else,'' he said.

A county grand jury accused Mr. Dann's top aide of various counts of theft, misuse of government property for personal benefit, padding his income through condo rent improperly paid by Mr. Dann's campaign committee, workers' compensation fraud, and failing to disclose his connection to a

construction firm in ethics disclosures.

The announcement marks the first criminal action taken against anyone connected to the multi-agency investigation of Mr. Dann's office.

Mr. Gutierrz was the target of a pair of sexual harassment allegations that were settled earlier this year by the attorney general's office. Allegations are still pending in Trumbull and Mahoning counties that Mr. Gutierrez padded bills paid by Mr. Dann's campaign committee for security windows at Mr. Dann's Youngstown area home and then redirected the extra money to three businesses to which Mr. Gutierrez's private firm, MTV Construction, owed money.

Mr. Gutierrez is expected to turn himself in on Monday. Mr. O'Brien said he had cooperated with the investigation, but stressed that no deal was reached in the talks that took place. The prosecutor expects Mr. Gutierrez to enter a plea of not guilty on Monday and to be released on bond pending trial.

If convicted on all charges, Mr. Gutierrez faces a maximum of eight years in jail and $20,000 in fines, said Mr. O'Brien.

Mr. O'Brien did not speak with Mr. Dann as part of the investigation. The Ohio Ethics Commission tried to interview Mr. Dann before it referred allegations to Mr. O'Brien.

"There were attempts to talk to both Mr. Dann and his spouse,'' said Commission Executive Director David Freel. "He said he would respond only to written questions. That is not the ordinary process the commission engages in.''

Mr. Dann has so far faced no criminal charges. In March, he was fined $1,000 and given a public reprimand by the Ohio Elections Commission for illegally mining campaign funds to finance a $40,000-plus security system for his home as well as personal cell phone use for him and his family.

The panel chose not to refer the case to Mr. O'Brien for possible criminal prosecution, but it is expected next month to examine more serious allegations of misspent funds against Mr. Dann, his wife Alyssa Lenhoff, former press secretary Leo Jennings, and campaign committee Deputy Treasurer Mary Beth Snyder.

Mr. Dann resigned last year under pressure from Republicans and fellow Democrats alike in the wake of the harassment scandal. Mr. Dann admitted at the time that he feared his own extramarital affair with his office scheduler may have set a poor example.

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



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