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Published: Wednesday, 7/11/2007

Defense-team action nearly scuttles Wood County trial

BOWLING GREEN - The trial of a former Perrysburg Township police officer charged with rape almost ended before the first witness got off the stand yesterday.

Richard Solether, 40, is charged with sexually assaulting a 25-year-old Perrysburg woman he met at a bar in August. The victim was the first to take the witness stand after a jury was seated in Wood County Common Pleas Court.

She testified that after joining Mr. Solether and his friends at a table at the bar, he followed her home, talked her into getting into his car with him, and drove her to his apartment, where he assaulted her.

During cross-examination, defense attorney Sheldon Wittenberg asked the woman whether she had given Mr. Solether her phone number, and she said no. He asked again if she hadn't written her phone number down on a piece of paper and given it to him, and she again said no.

The problem arose when Mr. Wittenberg walked over to the defense table and retrieved a piece of paper - evidence prosecutors argued had not been revealed during the discovery process. With the jury out of the room, Mr. Wittenberg told the court he did not know if he would be introducing the document as evidence because he didn't know how she would answer the question.

Judge Mayberry replied that the attorney had violated the rules of discovery by failing to include the document as evidence before the trial and had "placed the court in an untenable position" by "parading" the document in front of the jury.

After a brief recess, Assistant Wood County Prosecutor Gwen Howe-Gebers said the prosecution would not ask for a mistrial because the victim was eager to confront the defendant and resolve the matter. She also asked that Judge Mayberry not give the jury instructions to disregard what occurred because she didn't want to draw more attention to it.

When the victim again took the stand, she said she did not report the incident to police immediately after it happened but arranged through a friend to meet with a Perrysburg Township detective four days later at her place of employment.

"I didn't want to go to the Perrysburg Township Police Department. I didn't want to see a cop. I didn't want to see anyone in uniform," she said. "I didn't want to run into him by any means."

Mr. Solether, who had been with Perrysburg Township a little over a year, was fired a day after he was indicted by a Wood County grand jury on the first-degree felony Nov. 1.

His trial is expected to wrap up today.



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