The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

January 4, 2013

2nd pretrial set in Wolford case

By SHELLEY TERRY - sterry@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

ASHTABULA —  A police officer, who was fired for insubordination in February 2011, will be back in Municipal Court Jan. 29 for his second pretrial.

Former Patrolman Robert Wolford, 41, appeared for a pretrial late last month, but after his attorney, Thomas M. Hanculak of Cleveland, and City Solicitor Michael Franklin met behind closed doors, they asked the court to schedule a second pretrial in 45 days to allow Franklin more time for “supplemental discovery.”

Municipal Court Judge Albert Camplese granted the request.

The second pretrial is set for 1:45 p.m. Jan. 29, court officials said.

Wolford is charged with falsification and obstructing official business, court records show.

Police reports show Wolford was shot in the arm with his own gun in August 2010, but later, city officials said he refused to take a polygraph test about the incident.

“The account of the shooting has been determined to be false,” Franklin said.

Consequently, Wolford has been charged with two counts of falsification and two counts of obstructing official business, Municipal Court records show. He pleaded not guilty to all counts and is free on a $4,500 personal bond, court records show.

After Wolford was terminated by the city, he took the matter to arbitration and the arbitrator ruled that, while the city had the right to require a polygraph test, and while the city stipulated in writing the results would not be used in any criminal proceedings, the form the lie detector examiner at Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation asked Wolford to sign created an ambiguity and justified him in refusing to take the examination.

The city’s position was that under prevailing Ohio law, a lie detector test is never admissible in a criminal proceeding unless the prosecutor and the defense attorney stipulate in advance that it will be admissible, so any ambiguity in the form was immaterial and irrelevant.

The arbitrator was selected by the police union and the city.

Franklin said the city is appealing the ruling in Common Pleas Court.

On Aug. 21, 2010, Wolford said he was shot at 3:52 a.m. near West 38th Street along a section of railroad tracks while chasing two fleeing suspects, police reports said.

At the time, Wolford said he suspected the men were burglars and a struggle with one of the suspects resulted in his gun discharging, according to police reports.

In a Feb. 2, 2011 letter, Police Chief Robert Stell and former Lt. John Koski warned Wolford about alleged non compliance with police department orders and procedures, including not honoring subpoenas and not showing up for a grand jury.

Wolford is no longer a city employee.