LIMA — The head of the Allen Metropolitan Housing Authority walked out of a courtroom Tuesday smiling and with tears in her eyes after a jury cleared her of a falsification charge.
The verdict puts and end to a saga against Anna Schnippel that has played out for more than a year. And for Schnippel, there’s no question it’s a big relief.
She declined to make a statement after the verdict of not guilty on the misdemeanor charge of falsification but her attorney, J. Alan Smith, said it the vindication speaks volumes.
“Anna Schnippel is thrilled. She’s glad that she’s finally been vindicated. There’s been a lot of allegations and charges made against her, totally groundless and totally without merit. She has not had the opportunity to respond to those accusations,” Smith said.
Lima City Prosecutor Rick Eddy said the prosecution team put on all the evidence it had.
“We thought we put on our best case. The jury didn’t agree with us. We respect that.”
Schnippel was accused of making a false statement to an investigator with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. The statement was over the report of an injury by another agency employee who said she was hurt during a police raid during which the employee was arrested on March 27, 2012. Police raided the agency without a warrant after receiving an anonymous tip someone inside the agency was destroying records. Police later obtained a warrant to search the agency.
Smith said the prosecution’s evidence in the form of statements from disgruntled ex-employees worked against the prosecution.
“It came through very clear to the jury that these people had a bias, that they were trying to get payback of what they perceived as some kind of wrongdoing,” Smith said.
That alleged wrongdoing, which Smith harped on throughout the case, was the firing of the former head of the agency, Cindi Ring. Smith said Ring was a popular person among many employees leading some to conspire against Schnippel.
Smith argued all Schnippel did was express an opinion to an investigator on what she saw.
“We do not convict people of crimes for expressing an opinion. It’s freedom of speech and the First Amendment,” Smith said.
During his closing argument, Eddy said Schnippel intentionally made a false statement to mislead an investigator on the workers’ compensation claim.
“We heard testimony she was upset, she was frustrated and she was angry. She wanted to make them look like idiots,” he said.
Schnippel told the investigator that police officers were violent in arresting Met Housing receptionist Cheryl Lawson during the raid, Eddy said.
“The officers came in like storm troopers, like jackbooted thieves,” Eddy said.
But Smith followed by asking the jury how the expression of an opinion on an incident equates to making a false statement.
Smith also attacked investigators on the case who he said interviewed Schnippel but didn’t type up her statement until two weeks later and then destroyed their notes. He said it was easy for them to write what they wanted the report to say.
“Fascism no longer wears jackboots and Nazi clothes. It wears a suit and works for the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation,” Smith said.
On Thursday, Lawson goes on trial charged with falsification and workers’ compensation fraud. Both are misdemeanors.
A third employee, Bruce Monford, the brother of the housing board President Rev. Lamont Monford, was indicted on eight counts of tampering with records and two counts of theft in office, all felonies.
The charges against Monford allege crimes that took place related to Bruce Monford’s duties as a housing inspector for the agency. He is scheduled to stand trial May 28.