When the SEC warned Jim Petro that Bureau of Workers' Comp investors were ripping off the state with exorbitant fees, he did what attorneys general do in these parts: He smiled, nodded his head, then went back to trading state contracts for campaign contributions.
But the subsequent embarrassment of Coingate delivered an epiphany of sorts: The Laziest Man in Law Enforcement discovered that his job was enforcing the law. Who woulda thought?
So in the last few months, Petro has jumped on every scandal with a headline attached to it, in hopes of remaking his image. He's played the crusading attorney in investigating Tom Noe, though he sat on his ass while Noe did his best thieving. He worked to close The International Preparatory School, the poster child for the state's corruption-ridden charter program, though the school had been blowing millions a year under his watch.
Of course, Petro had no role in uncloaking either scandal. He was merely forced to act in response to newspaper reports.
But cut the guy some slack. When you've never been introduced to actual work, it takes time to get intimate.
Now Petro's diving head first into the Clarence Elkins case.
In 1998, Elkins was convicted of killing his mother-in-law and raping his six-year-old niece. The niece has since recanted her testimony against him, and DNA evidence later ruled Elkins out as a suspect. Moreover, Elkins, who is at the Lebanon Correctional Facility, was able to snatch a cig butt from fellow inmate Earl Mann, who lived two doors down from his mother-in-law when she was killed. DNA from Mann, a convicted child rapist, matches DNA from the crime scene.
The mounting evidence prompted Petro to send a public letter urging the Summit County Prosecutor's Office to release Elkins. He's probably right. Yet Prosecutor Mary Ann Kovach remains unimpressed. It seems the attorney general is still struggling with that whole concept of work. Before making his announcement, Petro never even bothered to read the case file, says Kovach.
"He's completely buying into the defense's side," she says. "He even believes that the cigarette actually belonged to Mann."
Kovach believes Petro has ulterior motives: He's hoping Innocent Man stories will bump Coingate from the front page. "This is purely political," she says. "I'm sure he doesn't want the Noe business in the front of the news. Isn't that obvious? He's running for governor. Do I really have to spell that out?"
Blackwell hires Hicks crony
Smart Republican gubernatorial candidates are trying to distance themselves from Bob Taft, whose popularity ratings are comparable to Scooter Libby's. But Ken Blackwell, who once lost a game of checkers to a plate of refried beans, isn't known for his intellect.
He recently hired Jessica "Scottie" May to be one of his campaign fund-raisers.
First off, what's up with these Republican nicknames? (Be assured no al-Qaeda dirtbag is sitting in a Pakistani cave, pleading, "We mustn't bomb the D.C. subway, Osama, lest we unleash the fearsome wrath of Scooter!")
Second off, Scottie is a Columbus sugar mama who has raised millions for Taft. She also worked for the governor's former chief of staff, Brian Hicks, who was convicted after secretly receiving discount Florida vacations from Noe. And their company, Hicks Partners, organized the 2003 fund-raiser that got Noe indicted for money-laundering.
Which means that Scottie has hit the trifecta of corrupt associates. If she were only disclosed as the mistress of Larry Householder, she'd be hitting for the cycle.
Lightning strikes twice
Last week, Brian Weems made history, becoming the first and second person to get lit up by the Cleveland polices new Tasers.
The first incident occurred on Halloween, when someone reported a wild naked man at East 114th and Benham Avenue. The cops found Weems, a husky 6-foot-4, 260 pounder, parading his masculine apparatus in front of a large crowd, including dozens of little trick-or-treaters.
Police ordered him to lie down, at which point Weems turned toward a group of small children and began masturbating, saying, "Yeah, you like that," according to a police report.
Original lines are apparently not his strong suit.
Police attempted to cuff him, but he shoved a sergeant away and went for the kids.
That's when police let loose with the Taser. Weems took a five-second shock, at which point he became noticeably more compliant. Police took him to the hospital, only to learn that he had been treated earlier that day for PCP.
Weems, however, did not fully appreciate this lesson in electricity. The next day, police received a tip that Weems got into a violent argument with another man, which culminated in Weems "biting him on the head and violently grabbing his face, scratching his eyes and stating, 'Why did you go to Florida and leave me, bitch?'"
Sounds like Weems was on another PCP bender.
Just as police were taking the report, they heard from dispatch that Weems was standing naked outside a home on East 108th, kicking a door. Police found Weems "standing on the porch with no shirt and his pants half way down, exposing his genital area and kicking and pulling violently at the door," according to their report.
He again attacked police, who again provided him with some nutritious juice. Sadly, another man was shocked the next day while Weems was still in jail, thus breaking his winning streak.
A Washington think tank last week published results from a ground-breaking survey, which determined that -- brace yourself, dear reader -- people in Ohio don't like the public schools. (A companion study, entitled "Some Men Like Football," is expected out this week.)
But charter school opponents are focusing their anger on not the findings, but the survey, which was as sneaky as it was obvious.
Commissioned by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, the survey found that many Ohioans would rather send their kids to private or charter schools. They were convenient results, since, along with publishing useless surveys, Fordham also happens to operate 10 Ohio charter schools. And it neglected to mention that, no matter how wretched our public schools are, they've consistently outperformed the even more wretched charters by wide margins.