Sam Crish didn’t seem like himself while sitting in a conference room at The Lima News. Like we do with many public officials, the newspaper had invited the Allen County sheriff as well as Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin to meet with us and discuss some of the issues they were facing.
Crish seemed tired, a little stressed and somewhat guarded as we talked for nearly an hour. He did go on a tangent at one point though, saying the morale of longtime officers was shaken in light of the accusations being made against lawmen across the country.
“Some say, ‘I got my time, I’m out of here,’” Crish told us. He emphasized the vast majority of officers are good people just trying to do their jobs and protect the public.
“We certainly make mistakes. We are not perfect,” Crish said.
We didn’t know it then, but we wonder now if Crish could have been talking about himself.
Not a month went by after that meeting when on Sept. 7, 2016, FBI agents showed up at the Allen County Sheriff’s Department, went into Crish’s office and walked out with his computer and other files.
No one saw that one coming.
Crish had a reputation of being “one of the good guys.” He had patched up the rocky relationship with the Lima Police Department leadership that he inherited when becoming sheriff. People saw him as trustworthy and liked how he proudly wore the uniform. Nearly 7 out of 10 voters supported Crish when he first ran for the office in 2008. Four years later he didn’t even have any opposition.
Crish did all of the little things sheriffs are supposed to do. He talked with kids at schools, marched in parades, spoke before civic organizations and hung out at the county fair.
And you know what?
Boy, were we fooled. You, me, and most people who crossed Crish’s path.
A bunch of suckers may be a better way to put it.
The Crish we thought we knew pleaded guilty last week in federal court to extortion and bribery charges. The crimes had been going on for years behind the scenes.
He was the cop who gave good officers a bad name. A lawman who couldn’t be trusted. A cold-hearted crook who could say the Pledge of Allegiance one minute and bilk you out of a thousand dollars the next.
A gambling addiction is believed to have had a lot to do with his becoming a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde character. Addictions are terrible illnesses that have long histories of causing good people to do terrible things. Crish turned to shaking down folks as he tried to pay off hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gambling debts that went back to at least 2013.
Who knows what else he did?
It’s the lying that I’m wrestling with.
When FBI agents swarmed his office, the lawman inside of Crish had to have the sinking feeling that he was caught. The FBI does not come in and serve a search warrant on a sitting sheriff unless they have quite a few facts they know are true. Yet for the next two years, five months and 25 days, Crish maintained his innocence. A small fortune in time and money was spent investigating him as he continued to lie.
Judge James Carr put an end to it last Monday in U.S. District Court in Toledo.
After a prosecutor walked through the allegations, Carr made Crish fess up. “Did you do these things?” the judge asked.
Crish replied, “Yes, sir.”
Carr continued, “While you were a public official?”
Again, Crish replied, “Yes, sir.”
With that, at age 56, Crish now faces up to 15½ years in prison when sentenced in September. That’s what was set up in the plea deal. But Carr stressed the ultimate sentence rests entirely in his (Carr’s) hands. It could be more, it could be less.
It all makes for a sad story.
The former sheriff betrayed everything he worked for — the job he loved, the community, his fellow officers, his family and himself.
A good guy?
He certainly fooled us.
ROSES AND THORNS: Are those green roses in the garden?
Rose: Cheers to Tim Casey, who has been named the grand marshal of Lima’s 27th annual Irish Day Parade, being held Saturday. Casey, 86, is a longtime resident of Lima’s north side and laments the disappearance of the city’s traditional Irish pubs.
Rose: To Catherine Myers, 13, a 7th grader at St. Charles Catholic School in Lima. She correctly spelled “bravura” and “gregarious” to win the 2019 Lima News Regional Spelling Bee. She moves on in May to the Scripps National Bee in Washington, D.C.
Rose: Park rangers for the City of Lima are involved in a unique game of laser tag. The rangers have been shooting geese with lasers to keep them from nesting in city parks. Without being harassed, the geese tend to settle down, causing public safety issues.
Rose: Bluffton High School wrestler Deandre Nassar finished the year with a perfect 44-0 record and a state championship.
Rose: More than 200 people showed up at Delphos Jefferson High School to pack 30,000 meals for Rise Against Hunger. The international organization ships the meals to people in need worldwide.
Thorn: VFW clubs around the region are struggling with enough active members to stay open. Only 10 of 256 members in Ottawa are active.
Thorn: The Ohio Trucking Association tells The Lima News it’s backing an increase in the state’s gas tax. Meanwhile, truck divers tell us they’re against such a tax and launch a tax protest in Columbus.
Thorn: For at least the third time in recent months, Bath firefighters were dispatched to the former Lima Inn on Neubrecht Road in response to an arson fire.
PARTING SHOT: “If quitters never win, and winners never cheat, then who is the fool who said “Quit while you’re ahead?”
Jim Krumel is the editor of The Lima News. Contact him at 567-242-0391 or at The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima, Ohio 45807.