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Perkins chief cleared on 2 counts; jury locked on 38

SANDUSKY - Perkins Township police Chief Tim McClung bowed his head yesterday after a jury found him not guilty of two counts of theft in office but failed to reach a verdict on 38 other charges.

The verdict was read just four hours after the 12 jurors had asked to be removed from the case because they said they couldn't reach unanimous decisions on any of the 40 counts.

Immediately after the verdict was returned, the chief got up from the defense table and shook hands with about a dozen of his supporters.

Most of them were Perkins Township police officers who were in uniform. His wife, Cynthia, and newborn son also were in the courtroom.

Chief McClung would not comment on the verdict, which was handed down after more than 25 hours of deliberations over four days.

“Tomorrow morning, I'll be at my office at 8 a.m. I have a police department to run,” he said. “That's all I have to say.”

The five-year chief had faced 40 charges of theft in office, money laundering, tampering with evidence, and forgery for allegedly stealing more than $20,000 from his department's K-9 fund and from a national dog organization to which he belonged.

The chief, who testified in his own defense, said he often spent his own money on the K-9 unit, asking for reimbursements later - if at all.

Visiting Judge Richard Markus declared a mistrial on the remaining 38 charges against the chief, but Special Prosecutor John Weglian said he plans to try the case again soon in Erie County.

He said attorneys will set a new trial date during a telephone conference scheduled for April 20. Mr. Weglian said he's ordered a transcript of the chief's five hours of testimony from this trial.

The prosecutor said he remains confident that Chief McClung could be convicted of the crimes.

“This jury did not lose its way, I don't think,” Mr. Weglian said. “My understanding of the jury vote on the remaining counts was positive [for us.]”

Jo Anne Haney, the jury forewoman, said one juror typically disagreed with the 11 others on most counts. Ms. Haney said that juror entered the deliberation room on March 23 after listening to five days of testimony and announced that his mind was made up - and that his fellow jurors probably wouldn't like it.

Ms. Haney said jurors learned the next week when they began deliberating that the juror believed the chief was not guilty.

On many counts, the vote was 11-1 to convict the chief, she said. In others, she said a few jurors voted against the majority. “It's very frustrating to spend three to four days and have the majority of the people come up with guilty and not be able to convince the others,” Ms. Haney said. “But again, they have to live with their choice.”

Jurors were able to reach a unanimous decision late Friday on 10 counts, but Ms. Haney said several “people had a change of heart” after they thought about the case over the weekend.

Another juror, Sterling Workman, compared the case to putting together a puzzle, in which the jury came up with pieces that were missing or didn't fit together in the end.

“It's a very complicated case for jurors,” he said. “There was a lot of division. Each individual is different. We did the best we could given the number of charges.''

Defense attorney Jim Hart said last night that he was pleased with the verdict. He said he had not yet spoken with jurors but planned to do so.

“My gut feeling was the prosecutor over-indicted my client to try to convince the jurors there was wrongdoing because there were [43 original] charges,” Mr. Hart said.

Marie Hildebrant, a Perkins Township trustee, said an executive session scheduled for yesterday was canceled after the chief's verdict was returned.

Trustees had planned to talk about the verdict, but she said that discussion is unnecessary. “As far as I'm concerned, we have no reason to meet,” she said. “We have a chief.”

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