LIMA — A man sentenced to 25 prison after pleading guilty to various drug crimes more than a year ago is seeking a new trial, alleging the judge unfairly sentences black defendants on two crimes.
Demond Liles, 46, filed a request with the court seeking a new trial or in the alternative to be resentenced by a judge other than Jeffrey Reed, who sentenced Liles on Dec. 1, 2014. Liles’ attorney, Ken Rexford, also has filed a request with the Ohio Supreme Court to have Reed removed from the case. That request is pending.
Reed said he cannot issue a ruling or decide to hear the request until the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled. He said he cannot comment on the matter due to the pending request.
In the request, Rexford filed numerous records and comparing sentences Reed issued to former Allen County Common Pleas Judge Richard Warren on drug trafficking and felonious assault crimes for defendants convicted of first or second-degree felonies in Allen County from 2008 through 2014.
“The judge who sentenced petitioner has a pattern of imposing much harsher sentences as a sole function of the race of the accused, sentencing black defendants to roughly twice the sentence of white defendants for offenses often related to drug trafficking, including drug trafficking and felonious assault,” Rexford wrote in the request.
Rexford said Reed sentenced black offenders on drug trafficking charges to an average of 101.1 months in prison while sentencing white offenders on the same charge to an average of 69.6 months in prison.
Rexford said statistics can be misleading since many factors go into sentencing determinations and each case is unique, so he also took a look at sentences issued by Warren.
“Presumably, Judge Warren would have very similar average results over such a long period if the disparate results were a function of community factors and the like. However, the observed sentencing disparity disappeared when Judge Warren’s numbers were computed,” Rexford said.
Warren sentenced black offenders to an average of 61 months in prison on drug trafficking charges while the average was 55.5 months in prison for white offenders, Rexford wrote in court records.
In felonious assault cases, Reed sentenced black offenders to an average of 85.6 months in prison compared to 46.7 for white offenders. The numbers for Warren were 104 months for black offenders compared to 108 months for white offenders, Rexford wrote.
Rexford said Judge David Cheney, who replaced Warren, who retired, has not been on the bench long enough to have enough of a history to offer a fair comparison.
Rexford said the disparity in prison time Reed gives black offenders, specific to drug trafficking and felonious assault, is enough to grant his request for a new trial or sentencing hearing before another judge.
Liles was charged with 15 criminal offenses — all drug charges — but agreed to plea to four counts of trafficking in cocaine with a vehicle forfeiture. One of the charges had a major drug offender specification. Two of the charges were first-degree felonies, one was a second-degree felony and the last was a fourth-degree felony. Prosecutors dismissed the other 11 charges in exchange for the plea.
The remaining charges that Liles entered the guilty plea to carried a mandatory 24 years, if consecutive sentences were given, which Reed did issue. Reed included one more year on the other drug charge that did not require a mandatory prison sentence.
Rexford also cites other grounds seeking a new trial. He said Liles had a personal relationship with Allen County Sheriff Sam Crish and that Crish borrowed $20,000 from him then used the drug task force to entrap Liles into committing felony drug crimes. Rexford said Crish did this to get out of paying his debt.
Crish said there is no truth to his allegations and declined further comment.
Other grounds seeking a new trial include alleging Liles’ original attorney did not do a good job representing him and that a prosecutor violated a plea agreement by recommending a sentence when the prosecutor agreed not to.
An appellate court has already ruled the prosecutor did not violate the agreement.
Reach Greg Sowinski at 567-242-0464 or on Twitter @Lima_Sowinski.