MARYSVILLE — The judge didn’t wear his robe today, and no one addressed him as your honor.
Instead, Union County Common Pleas Judge Don Fraser sat in the back of his own courtroom, wearing a suit. And the shackled and handcuffed defendant turned and called him dad.
Sumner Walters, a visiting judge appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court after Fraser stepped off the case, sat behind the bench and presided over the hearing for Fraser’s 19-year-old daughter, Shea.
Shea Fraser pleaded guilty Feb. 11 to trafficking in heroin and possession of heroin, both fifth-degree felonies. In exchange for her plea, two other felony heroin charges were dropped.
She was one of 18 people arrested in October after a Marysville Police Department heroin investigation.
Walters sentenced her to five years of court supervision and ordered 18 months of intensive probation, something which often requires daily check-in and is much stricter than regular probation.
As part of her sentence, she has been accepted into a drug-court program in Allen County, which is also the county that will supervise her probation. That arrangement takes responsibility for her monitoring completely out of her father’s court.
Fraser wept as his daughter turned to address her parents in court.
“This isn’t because of the way I was raised,” she told them. “Mom and Dad, you are really, really good people and you don’t deserve everything I’ve put you through.”
Allen County Prosecutor Juergen Waldick, who handled the case instead of the local prosecutor, said Shea Fraser has a long history of abusing drugs, including heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine, marijuana, meth and LSD.
She has been in private treatment since her arrest, but was kicked out last month when she didn’t follow the rules. She has been held in the Tri-County Jail in Mechanicsburg since returning to Union County from treatment in March.
Shea Fraser promised Walters that she is committed to recovery and will make use of the second chance given to her today.
After the hearing, Judge Fraser said his daughter’s battle with addiction has changed the way he approaches his job.
He has applied for a state grant to start his own drug court, where the focus is on treatment. If that money doesn’t come through, he will use money from his current budget to at least hire a coordinator. He hopes to have the drug court running this summer.
“I have no compunction about sending someone to prison who needs to go to prison,” he said. “But I have seen where the holes are, where the gaps are, what’s missing. And that is treatment.
“Clearly, if this court can provide a safety net, a longer term solution to the drugs that are the root of the problem of so much of the crime in this community, then we are compelled to try and do that.”