By RON CRAIG
Bettsville Councilman Stan Poe entered a no contest plea in Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court Wednesday morning to a fourth-degree misdemeanor charge of public indecency. Judge Mark Repp then found him guilty of the charge.
Repp imposed a fine of $150, sentenced him to 30 days in jail with 27 days suspended, imposed a two-year probationary period, and ordered Poe to undergo an exam by Firelands Counseling Services.
The maximum sentence for such an offense is a $250 fine and 30 days in jail.
The case stems from a July 28 incident at Poe’s residence in which he was accused of being naked in his yard, being seen by neighbors who were on Poe’s property “uninvited and unwelcome” at the time. One of those neighbors was a 13 year-old female.
Poe has steadfastly denied being naked at the time, but in an interview with the Review Times immediately following the court session, Poe said when he got out of his hot tub, they may have seen his “butt cheeks” before he got a towel wrapped around himself.
Poe’s Tiffin attorney, John Kahler, asked the judge to allow him to spend the jail time under house arrest due to medical conditions from which his client suffers, but the judge wasn’t having it.
“Jail is jail,” Repp told Poe and Kahler after Prosecutor Rick Palau objected to the request.
The Firelands exam seemed to upset Poe more than the jail time as it seemed that part of the sentence was precipitated by information Poe has surveillance cameras on his property where the incident took place. Repp seemed perplexed by the presence of those cameras, and when Poe began to explain why he had them, Repp said he did not want to hear about it.
“You’ve already pled guilty,” Repp told the councilman.
When Poe and Kahler were standing at the court clerk’s counter after the case was concluded, Poe said he couldn’t believe he had to undergo the exam.
“Some of my clients require me to have those cameras,” Poe said, referring to his website business and what he perceived as the reason Repp ordered the exam.
Repp also asked Poe about a criminal trespassing incident with which Poe had been charged 10 years ago in Fremont. In that case, Poe was allegedly seen masturbating in a hotel hot tub where he was not a registered guest. That case was dismissed after Poe completed a diversion program.
Poe told the judge he was in the hot tub to get relief from back pain, and he bought the hot tub now in his yard a short time after that incident so as not to repeat the behavior.
“What am I to do?” Repp asked Poe before he handed down the sentence. Poe said he entered the no contest plea to avoid further expense of a trial he said would have cost him hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars more.
“This is not the crime of the century,” Repp said. “Bettsville is a nice little community.”
Palau, who was the village solicitor in Bettsville until summer this year, was the lead prosecutor in the case, but was joined at the prosecutor’s table by another member of the court’s prosecution team, Bettsville resident Charles Hall. Hall has been a critic of Poe during village council meetings.
Asked by the Review Times if he had asked Palau or Hall to recuse themselves from the case due to their relationship with Poe, Kahler said he had not. Poe said the idea was discussed, however, between the two.
Kahler and Poe said they were disappointed in the sentencing, but acknowledged they knew the judge could include some jail time.
“Palau told me he suspected (the judge could give) three days in jail,” Kahler said. Poe said he thought the sentence was unfair given the three days he will have to spend in jail and the Firelands exam he will undergo.
“I thought I would get the maximum fine of $250 with the jail time totally suspended,” Poe said.
Asked if he thought the public indecency criminal charge had an impact on his losing bid for another term on village council, Poe said it had a “drastic effect.”
Poe is to report to the Seneca County Jail at 8 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 4 to begin serving his jail time.