LIMA — The attorney representing the head of the Allen Metropolitan Housing Authority at her criminal trial said Wednesday she is a victim of a conspiracy by a group of ex-employees upset their friend and former boss was fired.
The group of employees sought to destroy Anna Schnippel, who replaced Cindi Ring, after Schnippel took steps to clean up the troubled agency, said attorney J. Alan Smith.
“The evidence in this case will show this is nothing short of a conspiracy by a band of disgruntle ne’er-do-well employees, most of which have been fired or quit their jobs since the time of these events,” Smith said.
But Assistant City Prosecutor Nicole Smith said Schnippel knowingly made a false statement to a Bureau of Workers’ Compensator investigator looking into a tip that the receptionist at the housing authority filed a false injury claim connected to a March 27, 2012, police raid at the agency.
“That’s where this all stemmed from: the officers arriving at the Allen Metropolitan Housing Authority,” Nicole Smith said.
J. Alan Smith argued it was nothing more than a group of people out to get Schnippel. Schnippel is charged with falsification over a statement she gave about alleged injuries reported on a workers’ compensation claim. The charge is a misdemeanor.
“The best evidence, folks, that this is a conspiracy is the vultures are circling. And if you don’t know what I mean, I told you Cindi Ring was the predecessor. Well, that’s Cindi Ring sitting right there,” Smith said pointing at Ring, who sat in the courtroom watching the trial.
Nicole Smith described the raid involving four plain-clothes officers attempting to enter the agency without a warrant after receiving an anonymous tip that employees inside were destroying records.
Lawson made a workers’ compensation claim, saying she was injured by an officer who arrested her. Lawson is facing her own misdemeanor charges over the claim and is scheduled to stand trial next week.
A Bureau of Workers’ Compensation employee interviewed Schnippel about Lawson’s injury.
Schnippel described the raid to investigators as “‘cops came in like jackbooted thieves, like storm troopers. That they were violent when they arrested Cheryl Lawson. That they threw her up against the wall,’” Nicole Smith said.
Nicole Smith said the case is much more than an opinion versus a statement. She said Schnippel intentionally made a false statement to a public official.
J. Alan Smith continued in his opening to pick at the prosecution’s case, saying police jumped the gun by acting on an anonymous tip that wasn’t true. He said all agency records are stored on computer offsite.
“They came in and executed raid like they do a meth lab. They were threatening, they were bullying,” J. Alan Smith said.
He said all employees were rounded up while police scrambled to get a search warrant they did not have to enter the building.
The trial is scheduled to resume this morning in Lima Municipal Court.