As part of our ongoing investigative series, Media Defiance has found that charges have been filed naming four Defiance County, Ohio officials.
While this is an ongoing investigation, the complaint is from one person’s case and more claims may arise. From what we are seeing, it is possible that these same officials could be named in future charges.
An official complaint filed through the Ohio Attorney General’s office, names two Defiance Co. Deputy Sheriff’s, one Prosecutor, and one Judge for misconduct and malicious violation of rights. The complaint also charges the County and State.
Lawrence Steele, 45, Defiance, Ohio has submitted a complaint charging the State of Ohio with “malicious and persistent violation of rights” directed through Defiance County officials.
Named in his complaint are Deputy Austin Little of the Defiance Co. Sheriff’s dept., Sgt. Ben Moser also DCS, Assistant City Law Director Troy Essex, and Defiance Co. Municipal Court Judge John T. Rohrs.
A source close to the matter says that Steele also submitted copies of the complaint to the Defiance Mayor’s office and the Defiance County Sheriff. Media Defiance has obtained a copy of the complaint.
The complaint alleges, beginning on November 11, 2021, deputies unlawfully detained Steele while he was at work. The Sheriff’s deputies proceeded to arrest and jail him without evidence to a crime being committed.
The following day after his release from jail, deputies continued to follow and harass Lawrence before unlawfully stopping, arresting, and jailing him again. According to the complaint.
In an interview, Lawrence contends the harassment started in July of 2021. “I had just got home, parked my truck, and checked the mail when deputy Little pulled into my drive claiming he was responding to a 911 call from my residence. I told him that I was the only person here and had no idea what he was talking about. I thought it was odd, but it wasn’t until November that I realized it was the same deputy each time making up claims to keep tabs on me.”
We are looking further into this claim, as it does warrant questioning of why the same deputy was involved every time. Each time submitting statements that have no supporting evidence.
Assistant City Law Director, Troy Essex, is charged with malicious prosecution and persistent violation of rights. As stated in the complaint, Essex blatantly ignored evidence of Steele’s innocence and chose to knowingly use false documentation as evidence.
Also charged is Municipal Court Judge, John T. Rohrs. The complaint states, Rohrs added to the violation of rights and imposed unlawful orders against Steele. Judge Rohrs ignored proof of rights violations and allowed it to continue for months, as stated in the report.
Our own investigation notes that in court recordings, the judge did reference recordings as evidence against Steele. However when we reached out to the Defiance Co. Sheriff’s office for copies, they informed us that there are no such recordings available. In an interview, Lawrence contends that these recordings do exist and contain proof of officer misconduct.
Mr. Steele’s complaint further charges his attorney, Nicholas Fee, for working in cahoots with the prosecutor to secure a conviction against him.
In our interview with Lawrence, we asked why he doesn’t accept a lesser charge and let it go, not that he should. His response,
“I have witnessed too many people I know personally have their lives ruined by this corrupt system, we always feel like there is nothing we can do. Well, now they have interfered and ruined my life. I’m not going to allow it, I have rights and a right not to have them violated. They pulled me out of work, threw me in jail, forced me homeless while ordering me to hand over the keys to my house and pay full expense for somebody else to live there. They damaged my reputation by charging me with a crime without any proof that I acted outside of my personal and property owner rights. They ignored those rights and imposed those conditions on me. Going as far as taking the only clothes I had from me, while forced to live in my vehicle. I can’t allow that, no person should allow it. They are acting outside of their false authority and we do not have to accept it. I’d like to know why the same deputy was constantly making false claims and hard up to arrest me, and I have some information that is probably going to shine some light on that. When I chose to fight it and called out these violations, they made sure to cost me my job. With your help I intend to prove the steps they took to purposely ruin my life. I am loosing everything because of their false case against me. After my lawyer pushed me into a deal and the unlawful orders were dropped, I discovered proof that he had and ignored evidence to have the case dropped. It’s corruption and it is ruining lives, it needs to stop. No, I can’t just accept a deal and walk away. I intend to pursue all remedy options available, including filing charges and lawsuits“
Our investigation continues and we will post updates as they become available.