Inmate-death trial delayed

Federal Judge David Katz approved prosecutors' request 'with great reluctance.' The trial was scheduled to start Monday.
Federal Judge David Katz approved prosecutors' request 'with great reluctance.' The trial was scheduled to start Monday.

Less than a week before the scheduled start of the criminal trial of Lucas County Sheriff James Telb and three former and current employees, a request by federal prosecutors has pushed the trial date into November.

U.S. District Court Judge David Katz granted a motion filed by federal prosecutors to continue the trial, which had been scheduled to start Monday in Toledo's federal court. The judge then set a Nov. 1 trial date with jury questioning to take place Oct. 19-21.

"I want everybody to understand that it is with great reluctance that I do this, and I know it is with great reluctance that the government requested this continuance, and I know that it is with great reluctance that the defense consented," Judge Katz said yesterday, adding that a change in trial results in a "tremendous inconvenience."

The sheriff was charged in a 12-count indictment last year that also named John Gray, a retired sergeant; Jay Schmeltz, a retired deputy sheriff, and Capt. Robert McBroom, an investigator with the Internal Affairs Department.

The four men are charged with crimes associated with the 2004 death of inmate Carlton Benton, which was recently ruled a homicide. Mr. Benton, who was 25, was in custody awaiting trial for the aggravated murders of two people, and died June 1, 2004, in Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center.

According to a revised ruling released March 26 by the Lucas County Coroner's Office, his death was caused by asphyxia resulting from a sleeper hold.

Yesterday, defense attorneys for the four men did not object to the rescheduled trial date.

According to a motion filed by federal prosecutors yesterday, the continuance was requested due to "medical issues [which] have arisen involving the family member of an attorney for the government." A new trial date was requested because prosecutors did not believe they could adequately prepare for Monday's trial date, the motion said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Roger Bamberger participated in the hearing via telephone yesterday and thanked the court and defense counsel. He answered the defense's concerns that the delay would give the government more time to add additional charges by saying that was not the case.

Attorney Rick Kerger, who represents Sheriff Telb, said that his client was ready to go to trial Monday but understands the issues confronting the prosecution team and the decision of the court.

"We're disappointed. We wanted to go on and get the case over with," he said. "We'll be ready to go in October."

Mr. Kerger reiterated that his client does not plan to resign from his position as sheriff nor has there been a talk of an agreement with the government. Sheriff Telb's current term would end in 2012.

"I have no indication that the sheriff will do anything but serve out his term," Mr. Kerger said, adding, "I fully expect that we'll be going to trial."

Contact Erica Blake at:

or 419-213-2134.