EATON, Ohio (WDTN) – Testimony from the final witness during the Wednesday proceedings of former Ohio State Patrolmen Chris Ward occurred without Judge James Brogman in the courtroom.
Brogman had the testimony proffered on court record so he could study precedent cases as to whether he could consider the testimony of the former employer in his decision. Brogman will make the decision in the case, not a jury, as Ward’s case is a bench trial.
He took himself out of the courtroom while the state and defense asked questions. Brogman will decide later if precedent shows he can take the testimony into consideration.
“I don’t think it’s fair for me to decide this without reading these cases,” Brogman said. “I’d hate to have this man come back because he has a job that’s so important.”
The witness testified that one of the alleged victims had taken a company work truck to get food for workers who were constructing a building. She was allegedly pulled over by Ward. The witness called her employer to say she was pulled over and then abruptly hung up the phone.
The alleged victim later returned to work and was leaning against the side of the truck. The employer approached her but she was crying. He told her she could wait in the office, and he saw her again but he said she was more inconsolable, so he offered to let her take a break at a house at the property.
He said he was unable to get any information from her about what happened until she began talking at the house. The witness testified the alleged victim told him she was “pulled over by the only trooper living in Preble County but covering Butler County.” The Trooper said her license was under suspension for failing to appear in court for a traffic violation and told her to move the company truck to the back behind a building until it could be told.
He continued the story she allegedly told him, that the Trooper offered to let her sit in his cruiser because of the hot weather. He then had the door locked and said he could make this all go away if she performed a sex act on him, which she told her employer she did.
The employer said he went to the Butler County Sheriff’s Department the next day to report the incident. The woman said she wanted the incident to go away because she was involved in a custody battle over her children and suffered a previous drug habit. He later saw Ward’s photo and the story of the first indictment against him in The Register-Herald newspaper and showed it to the alleged victim. This was several months after the alleged assault against her.
She filled out several note cards which both her and her employer signed as a statement and turned over to authorities.
The state had sent a subpoena for the woman to appear in court but she has yet to appear to testify.
BCI Agent on the stand
Ohio BCI Agent Laetitia Schuler was called to the stand by the state. She had built the case against Ward and conducted the original forensics interview with him at the Trotwood Police Department.
Audio of the interview was played before the court, where he described his alleged assault of a minor who stayed at his house overnight. He said he was trying to get a cat out of the room that had been damaging the house. He said it was on the bed the girl was sleeping in. He said the girl had spent the night another time afterward, and he believed the allegations stemmed from a custody battle he was going through with his ex-wife over his daughter.
Defense attorney Steve Hobbs asked Schuler if she was the lead investigator on the case and she said she was. He asked if she interviewed the minor who was allegedly assaulted by Ward. She said she hadn’t, but would prefer to because of the issues children have remembering details from past events. Hobbs asked Schuler who interviewed her, and she said a Preble County Sheriff’s deputy.
Hobbs asked if the cyber unit had found photos or anything of a similar nature that sexual predators often keep of victims, and she said she hadn’t found photos. The state on re-cross examination then had Schuler read a text message sent by Ward’s wife to him when more accusations came to the public.
The text blasted Ward for inappropriate things he had said to a family member that was a minor, including sending an explicit photo over a text message.
“Here you are being accused again of doing something inappropriate to someone,” the text said.
Victim and friend testify to assault at traffic stop
An alleged victim of Ward said the trooper repeatedly and forcefully groped her during a traffic stop in New Lebanon in January 2015.
The incident occurred when Ward and another trooper pulled the alleged victim and a friend over for speeding.
The witness said she was given a patdown by Ward three times. She said Ward repeatedly rubbed forcefully between her legs during three separate pat-downs. She said the former trooper said he suspected she was hiding drugs in that area of her body.
The witness said she was wearing sweatpants with basketball shorts underneath and pulled her sweatpants down enough for the trooper to see the shorts. That didn’t stop him from patting her down for the third time.
The witness said she began to panic during the first patdown. She said she tried making eye contact with the other trooper who was with Ward, but he was staring at the road, looking away.
The witness told state assistant prosecutor Jennifer Reed she felt panic during the situation.
“(I thought) how do I get out of this situation?” she said. “How do I stop it? What’s the best way to stop it? I felt intimidated. I was standing by myself with no one on my side there, alone, not knowing how to react and very uncomfortable. I cooperated. I felt I had to do it and I didn’t feel safe.”
She was traveling with a friend on their way to McDonald’s. They were pulled over for speeding. The alleged victim’s friend began panicking and crying. She was placed in the back of the police car while the witness was frisked.
Ward told the witness she was being frisked because she was rustling around in the car while they were pulled over and law enforcement would be suspicious they could possibly be searching for a weapon.
Cruiser-cam footage showed the two females in the backseat of the patrol car. The driver was frantic and crying while the witness tried to calm her down before telling her she had been assaulted by the officer.
Both were released by Ward and said they drove on to McDonald’s. The alleged victim said she called New Lebanon Police and her father on a borrowed phone at the restaurant. The friend, who testified after the alleged victim, didn’t remember her calling law enforcement, though the witness said she talked to them at the restaurant. She said they advised she file a complaint with the State Patrol instead of filing a criminal complaint.