Judge expands gag order for trial

Associated Press


The judge who will preside at the trial of the mayor of a small Ohio city who’s also a veteran standup comedian has expanded on her gag order in the case.

Retired Summit County Common Pleas Judge Patricia Ann Cosgrove recently filed an eight-page order after earlier warning against case participants’ pretrial commentaries on the upcoming trial of Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings. She said that includes on social media.

The Times-Gazette newspaper of Hillsboro reported there had been Facebook comments questioning aspects of the case.

Hastings was indicted in July on four felony counts, including election falsification and theft in office. A jury trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 7 before Cosgrove, who was appointed after a local judge recused himself.

The second-term Republican mayor says he’s done nothing wrong, other than try to lead the city without the consent of the “established political structure.”

Judge Cosgrove’s order bars anyone associated with the case from commenting to the news media or on social media.

“The court is concerned with the effect which extra-jurisdictional statements or comments may have on the proceedings, and the potential to disrupt the processes by which a fair trial may be preserved,” Judge Cosgrove wrote.

Among examples of barred comments are those expressing “any opinion as to the guilt or innocence of the defendant and/or anyone else charged in connection with the alleged events underlying this matter.”

A large pool of some 100 people is planned for efforts to seat a jury in the southwest Ohio community.

The election falsification charge concerns Hastings’ residency in the city of 6,000 residents, where he has a downtown apartment besides a farm outside of town. Other charges stem from a $500 city fee refund for a building he owned and the alleged use of city trash bins for private debris disposal.

The newspaper reported that potential witnesses include Hastings’ administrative assistants, city officials and other local officials and police.