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'I’ve never seen anything like it before'

Zoe Greszler • Jan 11, 2019 at 10:00 PM

SANDUSKY — An impasse. A grand jury was unable to make a decision regarding possible sexual assault charges against Western Reserve Local Schools Superintendent Rodge Wilson.

The case was presented to an Erie County grand jury, however, grand jurors made no determination on proceeding with the case or dropping it. 

“I’ve never seen anything like it before,” said Sandusky Police Detective Eric Costante, who was involved in the investigation. “It’s a first. I have never, ever seen that before in my life. I found it very interesting as well.”

Costante said the suspected incident happened while the juvenile victim was at Firelands Regional Medical Center in Sandusky. 

A grand jury is comprised of randomly-selected registered voters of the local community, summoned the same way as trial juries. Unlike a trial jury though, grand jurors aren’t screened for bias or other potential issues.

A grand jury hears only the version of events from the prosecutor and his or her witnesses. After the evidence and testimony is presented by the prosecutor and witnesses, the grand jurors decide on whether to indict a defendant on each charge. At least seven of the nine jurors must vote to indict in order for a “bill of indictment” to be issued. Otherwise the grand jury issues a “no bill.”

Costante was unaware what the vote count was.

Grand jury proceedings in Ohio are secret to the public. While a court reporter is present during testimony (but not jury deliberations), the report remains confidential unless the court orders the information be made public.

Costante said police are waiting to hear back from the Erie County Prosecutor’s Office as to whether they have officially closed the case yet, which could release some more details to the public.

“Unless and until there is new information or evidence presented in the case, it’s closed” as far as his department is concerned, the detective added. 

The precarious situation means there were some people in the grand jury who believed there was enough information for Wilson to be indicted and some who weren’t able to make a decision either way.

“They (the grand jury) hear all the witnesses. They have the detectives come up and give their account. Then if they feel there’s enough information to indict them, they take that vote. But the grand jury didn’t indict him. They didn’t no-bill it, but didn’t indict. It was a stalemate. ... I guess they’d call that an impasse,” Costante said.

These grand jurors began meeting in April. Costante said they heard “every detail in reference to the case, everything from a testimony from Rodge (Wilson) himself and the victim’s father” plus what Costante had to offer.

Wilson’s attorney, in January 2018, said he was waiting to hear back from the prosecutor on whether Wilson would be charged, didn’t believe there was anything to the allegations. 

“Like I told you before, I thought this was ridiculous,” said attorney Brent English, who believed there to be “ulterior motives” to the allegations.

In a December 2017 interview, English said there was no evidence to substantiate the allegations and didn’t anticipate charges.

Wilson had denied several prior accusations. When asked about this most recent allegation and whether there had been an open investigation at that time, he neither denied nor confirmed the matter.

During the 2017 interview, English said the incident “allegedly occurred 2 1/2 years ago,” but had only just been reported to the police. The attorney said it is “not involving a student at Western Reserve.”

“This is not anything to do with his work at all,” he said.

“There have been a lot of unscrupulous allegations made, none of which have anything to prove that they are true,” English said. “Anybody can make allegations. That doesn't mean they are true.”

English has said he and Wilson were “confident” at that point and did “not anticipate any criminal charges.”

Wilson did not return phone calls over a number of days to the Reflector.

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