Ex-lawyer gets jail term in Ottawa County

Disbarred attorney Elsebeth Baumgartner is sentenced at the Ottawa County Courthouse.
Disbarred attorney Elsebeth Baumgartner is sentenced at the Ottawa County Courthouse.

PORT CLINTON - A disbarred lawyer convicted of 27 counts of contempt of court was sentenced yesterday to 120 days in the Ottawa County jail and fined $2,700.

Visiting Judge David Faulkner of Hardin County levied the punishment against Elsebeth Baumgartner, 51, after finding her guilty in late October of disrupting the court with statements she made during earlier court proceedings. Judge Faulkner said Ms. Baumgartner's behavior continued despite warnings by the judge hearing the cases, Richard Markus, a retired judge from Cuyahoga County.

"It didn't seem to matter. It continued so the court finds in this case there is a continuing course of conduct. It was deliberate," Judge Faulkner said before imposing the sentence.

Ottawa County Prosecutor Mark Mulligan had asked the court to give Ms. Baumgartner the maximum sentence of 30 days on each of the 27 counts, saying she had a "long history of slander, libel, and contempt."

"Contempt is not an anomaly for this defendant; it is a lifestyle," Mr. Mulligan said. "She remains unrepentant. She will not even pay lip service to remorse. Over her career as a peddler of despicable lies, Elsebeth has injured hundreds of people. She has sought to cripple public institutions in an attempt to replace justice with anarchy."

The prosecutor said he conservatively estimated she had cost northwest Ohio taxpayers more than $100,000 in frivolous lawsuits and other legal antics.

"There is no logical way to understand these attacks," Mr. Mulligan said. "If we were to apply logic, it would fail us. For all we know, Elsebeth does whatever her Rice Krispies tell her to do in the morning."

Her attorney, Frank Gasper, said his client "was like anyone else" before 2001 when she became involved in a string of litigation. "She became an advocate for, she believes, people that were being deprived, and that is continuing up until today," Mr. Gasper said.

Ms. Baumgartner, who is to be sentenced Dec. 18 in Cuyahoga County on charges she used e-mail messages and legal filings to try to coerce favorable rulings from Judge Markus, was disbarred in 2003.