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Judge Attacked in Flynt Scenario

Cincinnati- “Stakes,” a 30-second commercial attacking the record of Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Patrick T. Dinkelacker, who is running for the Ohio First District Court of Appeals. The ad was paid for by his opponent, volunteer law professor Jim O’Reilly. The ad started Monday.

Female announcer: “Our families. Our loved ones. The justice system that protects them depends on the county’s highest court. Now Patrick Dinkelacker wants to be on the Court of Appeals. But as a lower court judge, his error allowed Larry Flynt to go free and continue selling pornography in Hamilton County. Dinkelacker made headlines by putting a rape victim in jail, and he prosecuted the only death penalty case ever commuted by Gov. Taft. On the Court of Appeals, the stakes are too high for Patrick Dinkelacker’s mistakes.”

Negative ads are almost unheard of in a Court of Appeals race – and certainly in Hamilton County, where appellate judges have run unopposed since 1998. Judicial canons used to prohibit such attacks, but federal court rulings in First Amendment cases have pressured the Ohio Supreme Court to change its rules, and “truthful criticisms” of an opponent are now fair game. The O’Reilly campaign is also launching a more positive companion ad touting his own record.

Dinkelacker was the judge in the 1999 plea deal in which prosecutors agreed to drop obscenity charges against Larry and Jimmy Flynt in exchange for a guilty plea and $10,000 fine against their company, Hustler News and Gifts. The deal also included an agreement not to sell sexually explicit videos.

So when the Hustler store sold videos to undercover deputies in 2003, prosecutors reinstated the old charges. The appeals court ruled that unconstitutional. “Criminal cases cannot be ‘conditionally’ dismissed,” the court said, calling the 1999 deal “some kind of ‘super-secret probation.'”

But the claim that Dinkelacker’s handling of the case allowed Flynt to continue to sell pornography is dubious. There’s no guarantee Flynt would have been convicted in 1999 – and it was the prosecutor who initially agreed to the deal. There’s also no legal impediment to a grand jury indicting Flynt on new charges if the sheriff and prosecutor find evidence he’s violated state obscenity laws.

Dinkelacker did jail a woman who alleged she was raped in 2003, after she failed to appear in court. She later admitted she lied about parts of her story – testifying that she agreed to have sex with the defendant for $20 – and the man she accused was acquitted.

Finally, Taft granted clemency to Jerome Campbell, a man Dinkelacker helped put on death row.

But the decision, made when he was an assistant prosecutor, had more to do with the DNA than the prosecution.

DNA evidence that cast doubt on the capital case was not available at the time of the trial but came up during an appeal. It revealed that blood on Campbell’s shoes that had been shown to the jury was his own, not the victim’s. Other evidence revealed that inmates who claimed Campbell confessed to the murder were given leniency in exchange for their testimony.

“This conclusion does not diminish in any way Mr. Campbell’s responsibility for a brutal and senseless murder or the compassion I feel for (victim) Henry Turner and his family,” Taft said in explaining his decision to let Campbell spend the rest of his life in prison. He is now is under a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

“It is a sad day for Hamilton County and the entire justice system when a candidate who has never made a judicial decision or even tried a case in Hamilton County pulls $226,000 from his wealth to run attack ads full of false, deceptive and misleading representations against a judge with a proven record. Such political conduct denigrates the entire justice system and takes the politicalization of the judicial branch to a new low. In my opinion, it’s the experience and the proven record that matters, not false political attack ads.”

Dinkelacker’s campaign team is considering filing a complaint with the Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline. The Ohio Supreme Court oversees judicial elections, and there is a process for a rapid hearing. All complaints are secret unless probable cause is found.

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