LIMA — Neither of the principals in a civil lawsuit pitting a Lima businessman against a former county sheriff were present in court Thursday as final arguments were made leading up to trial scheduled for next month.
Ray Magnus, the plaintiff in the suit, chose to let his attorneys do the talking and did not attend the pre-trial hearing in Allen County Common Pleas Court. The target of the lawsuit — former Allen County Sheriff Sam Crish — also did not attend. He is serving a 10-year sentence at a federal prison in West Virginia.
At issue in the case is a loan Crish solicited and received from Magnus, a former Lima city councilman, in January 2013. Magnus said Crish borrowed $100,000 on Jan. 2, 2013, and made payments until July before halting the payments. Crish then borrowed $102,000 from Magnus, according to the lawsuit that has been amended several times since its initial filing in 2016. The loan was never repaid by the former sheriff and Magnus is seeking to recoup the money.
As an “intervening plaintiff” in the lawsuit, Auto Owners Insurance was also represented at Thursday’s hearing after filing a motion asking the court to reject a motion for summary judgment filed by Magnus earlier this month. That motion would allow the suit to proceed to trial.
Attorney Al Smith, representing Auto Owners, said the insurance company issued two bonds in Crish’s capacity as sheriff — a Furtherance of Justice Fund bond in the amount of $85,000 and a Public Official’s Bond for $25,000 — to which Magnus is attempting to lay claim. That claim, Smith said, is based on the fact that Crish allegedly told Magnus the loan at the heart of the case was for a police dog training program at the Sheriff’s Office.
But Smith, who called the entire case “a hot mess,” labeled the suggestion that Magnus believed the loan he made to Crish was for any type of official business as “ridiculous.”
“Mr. Magnus loaned the money to his friend, drinking buddy and gambling buddy,” Smith alleged. “He has no claim to the Furtherance of Justice Fund bond.”
Attorney Michael Rumer, representing Crish, sided with Auto Owners.
“I believe this has all been a bunch of hogwash,” Rumer said of the suit filed by Magnus. “A federal court has already ordered that the $102,00 be repaid” through a garnishment of Crish’s pension. “I believe the motion for summary judgment by the plaintiff should be overruled,” Rumer said.
Retired Fulton County Judge James Barber, sitting by assignment, said he will issue a ruling on the motion on Monday.
Crish submitted his resignation as sheriff effective Jan. 31, 2017, as he was being investigated by federal officials. On June 18, 2018, federal prosecutors and FBI agents opened a six-count indictment against the former sheriff and took Crish into custody. He was sentenced Sept. 26, 2019, in U.S. federal court in Toledo to 136 months in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of extortion, two counts of accepting bribes and one count of making a false statement. He was also ordered to pay more than $600,000 in restitution to the victims in his case. Crish reported to a federal prison in West Virginia to begin serving his sentence in November.