Judge says officers’ presence ‘attempt to intimidate the court’

By Gary Huffenberger

April 21, 2014

More than a dozen police officers were at a Monday court hearing where an early prison release for a sex offender was to be considered prior to the defense attorney withdrawing the request.

Matthew Richard Pitzer, 30, from Wilmington, was returned to prison to complete a four-year prison term following the hearing. Before Pitzer was sent back, the common pleas judge, who described the police turnout in court as unprecedented in his 29 years on the bench, said the presence of that number of officers “was an attempt to intimidate the court in some manner.”

Clinton County Common Pleas Judge John W. “Tim” Rudduck said, “The court certainly is in no position to respond to criticism from other parties. It goes with the job. But I do want to say that this was an attempt to intimidate the court in some manner. It miserably failed.”

Rudduck also said he’s glad there is a separation of powers in the United States among its three branches of government, and he makes rulings based on “facts and not emotions.”

Afterward, Wilmington Police Chief Duane Weyand, who was among the law enforcement personnel in the courtroom gallery, said officers showed up in support of Pitzer’s very young victim in the case.

Pitzer previously was found guilty of gross sexual imposition against a 5-year-old girl in Wilmington.

Weyand said police had reached out to the victim’s parents who he said were unable to be at the hearing Monday but had asked that police talk on their behalf.

“In no way, shape or form were we here to try to intimidate the court. We have respect for Judge Rudduck,” said the chief.

Clinton County Chief Felony Prosecutor Brian A. Shidaker said in court there had not been a written agreement between prosecution and defense counsel regarding how prosecution might respond to a request for early release.

What did happen, said Shidaker, was he suggested at the sentencing hearing in 2013 that “down the road” prosecution might go along with Pitzer, a local person, being monitored locally rather than by the state of Ohio.

But since then, Shidaker said he’s been provided “with a lot of additional information” including prior incidents he was not aware of when he raised the suggestion at the sentencing.

He also has met with the local probation department.

“Quite frankly, I was wrong. They [local probation staffers] are not prepared to handle Mr. Pitzer’s needs as far as his mental health issues,” Shidaker said.

Defense attorney Scott Evans said he withdrew the request for early release in light of the change in prosecution’s stance.

Gary Huffenberger can be reached at 937-382-2574 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.