A recent Supreme Court of Ohio decision sent the once on-hold case back to Lucas County Common Pleas Court. And according to the prosecutor's office, the case will resume where it left off.
"The Supreme Court has decided it will come back to us, and so the charges will be reinstated and we will go forward with the original case," said Jeff Lingo, the chief of the criminal division for the prosecutor's office.
Ms. Cook was indicted July 18, 2007, by a Lucas County grand jury on one count each of tampering with records and theft from an elderly person or disabled adult. But the case was put on hold after Lucas County prosecutors appealed a decision by Common Pleas Court Judge Gary Cook that dismissed the tampering charge because of statute of limitations.
The decision was reversed in September, 2009, by the 6th District Court of Appeals. Last week, the Ohio Supreme Court agreed that the original charge should be reinstated.
The Sylvania lawyer had been disbarred just prior to being criminally charged for allegedly falsifying the deed to an elderly client's farm in July, 2001.
Additionally, she was charged with transferring the property to herself before giving the farm to her client's church as she was instructed to do. The transfer allowed her to take charitable deductions for the gift.
If convicted of both offenses, Ms. Cook faces up to 15 years in prison.
Attorney John Potts, who represents Ms. Cook, said his client has lived with the weight of pending charges over her head for the past few years.
He said that he would expect the case would return to Judge Cook, who is not related to Ms. Cook, and be set for trial.
As of Thursday, no new dates had been set.
Mr. Potts said he disagreed with the 5-2 majority of the high court who decided that the six-year statute of limitations on the felony offenses began when the prosecutor's office was made aware of the alleged falsification.
He said he believes Ms. Cook's case should have been decided similarly to a previous state Supreme Court case named "Climaco" that stated that the statute of limitations clock began when the alleged misconduct was publicly available.
"In order to reach the result that the Supreme Court did, it had to ignore the precedent it already set," he said.
"Judge Cook was not free to ignore the prior decision of the Supreme Court," he added.
"Judge Cook made the proper decision based on the law that was in place at the time."
The higher court ruled that "the six-year statute of limitations for a felony offense that contains an element of fraud begins to run only after the corpus delicti, or body of the crime, of the offense is discovered."
The justices distinguished the case from "Climaco" in the amount of media coverage on the case. The 13-page opinion, written by Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, stated that without extensive media coverage, the only evidence of a crime was the deeds Ms. Cook herself created.
Therefore, the discovery of the crime was in February, 2004, "the date that the church trustees discovered the deeds that transferred [the client's] farm to Cook."
"Thus, the indictment filed against Cook on July, 18, 2007, was within the six-year statute of limitations," the opinion said.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Eric Brown stated that he did not believe that the case should be distinguished from "Climaco." Justice Paul Pfeifer also dissented in a separate opinion.
Mr. Lingo noted that any delay in prosecuting a case "can present problems for both sides." But he added that the time while the case was on hold isn't a "hurdle that we can't pass."
"We're certainly going to move forward," he said.
Ms. Cook is one of several local attorneys recently prosecuted for crimes associated with clients.
In August, former attorney Karyn McConnell Hancock was granted a release from prison after serving nearly half of her sentence for the theft of thousands of dollars from several clients.
In Oct. 29, former attorney Gregg Hickman was released from prison after serving seven months of a one-year term for the theft of $65,000 from a client.
Darrell M. Crosgrove was convicted in U.S. District Court for failing to supply services as part of a real estate scheme.
He was sentenced in 2008 to 11 years in prison.
Contact Erica Blake at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.
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