By BRIAN BOHNERT
Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court Judge Mark Repp was disqualified from a criminal case last week after a Seneca County judge granted an affidavit accusing him of personal bias or prejudice against a defendant charged in a 2012 crash.
According to court records, Seneca County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael P. Kelbley made the decision to disqualify Repp last Thursday after Attorney Mark Trimble filed an affidavit on behalf of his client, Alexander J. Ratchen.
Ratchen, 20, a Tiffin resident, was charged with underage consumption/possession, a first-degree misdemeanor, back in February after being a passenger in a pick-up truck that crashed Oct. 27, 2012 near Kansas in Jackson Township. The single-vehicle crash occurred at around 3:30 a.m. on Township Road 71A, killing 20-year-old Jacob Hohman, of Bascom.
Kevin Wertz, 22, of Bascom, was traveling southbound on County Road 58 in a 2000 Ford F-250 truck when he failed to yield to a stop sign, lost control of the vehicle and left the roadway. The vehicle struck a ditch and overturned onto its top.
Rachel Pennington, 20, of McCutchenville, was also a passenger in the vehicle with Hohman and Ratchen. Hohman was transported by air ambulance to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Toledo with serious injuries and died at 9:47 p.m., 14 hours after the incident. According to the coroner’s report, the cause of death was listed as “drowning.”
Wertz was found guilty of vehicular homicide back in December and was sentenced to a term of six months in jail.
According to the affidavit, the truck and a second vehicle were headed back to Wertz’s parents’ home in Bascom after leaving a party in Bowling Green when the crash occurred.
According to a previous release from the Ohio State Highway Patrol, “speed, consumption of alcoholic beverages and lack of seat belt” were factors in the crash.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol was assisted at the scene by the Seneca County Sheriff’s Department, Bascom Fire and EMS and John’s Towing.
In the second vehicle was Shiloh Sauber, 22, of Tiffin, Dylan Shellhouse, 20, of Tiffin, Trisha Reinhart and Nicholette Wise. Back in February, Repp sentenced Sauber and Shellhouse to 30 days in jail on underage possession/consumption charges, court records state.
Pennington has a case pending on charges of possession/consumption, Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court records state.
According to the affidavit, filed by Trimble on June 18, Repp wanted to impose a similar sentence of 30 days in jail on Ratchen due to Hohman’s death, and was unwilling to “entertain any form of a lesser sentence.”
“He was unwilling to analyze the fact that like Jacob Hohman, Alex Ratchen was severely injured and was unconscious when pulled from the truck and was virtually helpless,” the affidavit said. “Judge Repp would not entertain the conversation which outlined the fact that Ratchen played no role in deciding to move Jacob Hohman out of the crashed vehicle and to transport him to the Wertz residence.”
The affidavit also alleges that Repp was unwilling to acknowledge that, at the time of the crash, Ratchen was unconscious and in the water with Hohman.
From Oct. 30, 2013 to Feb. 26, 2014, all 19 defendants convicted of a first-time underage violation were placed into diversion programs, the affidavit states.
“It was clear from this conversation that Judge Repp was presiding over this matter with a fixed anticipatory judgment, as distinguished from an open state of mind which would be governed by the facts of the case. He was unwilling to consider any potential plea or allow an agreed upon sentence where Alex Ratchen would receive less than 30 days in jail without work release or sixty days in jail with work release,” the affidavit states.”
Additionally, it was noted that Ratchen is “gainfully employed” with no prior criminal history.
According to a judgment entry with Seneca County Common Pleas Court, Kelbley requested that the chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court appoint a judge to preside over Ratchen’s case.
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