LIMA — A dozen protesters representing the Lima chapter of the NAACP staged an impromptu rally outside the Allen County Courthouse Monday afternoon to demand a new trial for Lima resident and convicted drug dealer Demond Liles.
The Lima man is serving a 25-year prison sentence following his conviction in Allen County Common Pleas Court in 2014 for trafficking cocaine.
The call for a new trial for Liles is directly related to a federal indictment that was opened last month against former Allen County Sheriff Sam Crish. The ex-sheriff was charged in the indictment with two counts of extortion, three counts of soliciting bribes and one count of making a false statement to federal investigators.
Liles allegedly is one of the individuals extorted by Crish.
Ron Fails, president of the Lima chapter of the NAACP, said the purpose of Monday’s courthouse rally was to “call attention to the issue of a corrupt ex-sheriff who participated in the conviction of a man he owed money to … and then took actions that led to his arrest, conviction and sentence to get rid of him.”
He said the local NAACP chapter “will file a complaint and send it to the U.S. Justice Department and the Attorney General of Ohio” calling for Liles’ conviction to be thoroughly investigated.
Protesters at the rally carried signs that read “The system failed us” and “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
“What are we going to do about the lives he (Crish) has destroyed?” Fails asked rhetorically. “We are not satisfied with the FBI’s actions and we want justice for a man who used his position of authority to arrest and convict Demond Liles.”
He said Liles’ conviction was tainted by “corruption from top to bottom” in the legal system in Allen County.
Fails made reference during his address to the “fruit of the poisonous tree,” a legal metaphor used to describe evidence that is obtained illegally. The logic of the terminology is that if the source of the evidence is tainted, then anything gained from it is tainted as well. Fails said Crish used his influence illicitly and “in violation of the legal system.”
According to the federal indictment against Crish, Liles — who was identified in the document only as “Person 2” — loaned Crish $20,000 with the understanding that the former sheriff would repay that debt, along with $5,000 in interest. The loan was made in exchange for Crish looking the other way while Liles held financially lucrative parties at which alcohol was served and admission was charged, prosecutors allege.
Crish reportedly was seeking loans from several area individuals because of gambling debts he had incurred.
Liles, in a telephone conversation from prison last month with The Lima News, did not deny holding the parties, nor did he deny loaning Crish money.
“I loaned him money; we was friends, but I didn’t know he was corrupt,” Liles said.
He said the latest information about Crish that has come to light casts a new perspective on his conviction.
“It’s not fair what they did to me; none of this is fair,” Liles said. “Just give me a fair trial, that’s all I’m asking.”
Reach J Swygart at 567-242-0464.