Monday, May 17, 2021

Cincinnati Council Member Wendell Young indicted for tampering with records

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Cincinnati Council Member Wendell Young is under indictment for his part in the text messaging case involving four other city council members in 2018.

Young was indicted on one count of tampering with records for allegedly deleting text messages related to the so-called “Gang of Five” case.

In a release, Special Prosecutor Patrick Hanley writes, “The grand jury has decided that probable cause exists that Councilman Young has committed a violation of the law, tampering with records. It is my intention of taking that charge into court and establishing he is guilty of that offense beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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The charge carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison, according to the statement.

WVXU has reached out to Young for comment. His attorney, Scott Croswell says they have reviewed the indictment and intend to aggressively defend the charges.

Earlier this week, Young told other local media he’d been offered a plea deal, which he rejected.

The Cincinnati Business Courier also reports Croswell told a judge in 2019 “that Young had deleted the texts ‘months’ prior to the order (not to do so) because he had already turned them over to the city solicitor’s office and seen them published in local media.”

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters appointed Hanley, a Cincinnati lawyer who specializes in white collar criminal defense, as the special prosecutor in December 2019. In September 2020, Hanley said he wasn’t bringing charges against any of the five but that his investigation was ongoing.

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Hanley tells WVXU he anticipates no further prosecutions or investigations.

The five – Tamaya Dennard, Greg Landsman, Chris Seelbach, P.G. Sittenfeld and Young – admitted to violating the act in 2019. The case stems from text messages exchanged between the group in 2018 in which they discussed and made decisions about city business, which was a violation of Ohio’s Sunshine law. The city paid $101,000 to settle the case, including $90,000 for plaintiff attorneys fees and $11,000 for fines.

The city also spent $75,000 for two outside law firms to handle the case against the council members until the city solicitor’s office resumed representing them.

Three of the five remain on council: Seelbach, Landsman and Young. Tamaya Dennard resigned from City Council in March 2019 after being arrested on federal charges of extortion, bribery and wire fraud for allegedly offering to exchange her votes on council for money. P.G. Sittenfeld “temporarily stepped down” in December as he fights federal charges of bribery.

The texting case is not related to separate cases involving bribery and other allegations against Dennard, Sittenfeld and suspended Council Member Jeff Pastor.

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