Police confronting protesters

The criminal trials against three Columbus police officers for their actions during the 2020 summer protests has, some activists believe, turned farcical and (once again) shows how the Division and its union act in an autonomous and defiant way.

Last week lead special prosecutor Kathleen Garber resigned out of frustration – and probably out of fear from the fallout of trying to prosecute Columbus police officers in a criminal trial.

Garber confirmed to the Free Press she fainted in the courtroom during a recent trial day, and afterwards, the FOP Capital City Lodge #9 sent her flowers.

Whether it was out of spite to mock her or the flowers were heartfelt is a good question. But one the local FOP probably won’t answer, or if they did, an answer not to be trusted.

“That is accurate,” confirmed Garber to the Free Press is an email. “They sent flowers addressed to me at the office of Public Safety, even though I was not employed there or have an office there.”

The City has spent hundreds-of-thousands on an independent investigation but it appears mostly for nothing. So far, two of the three criminal misdemeanor trials have ended with officers walking away unpunished.

What’s more, Police Chief Elaine Bryant referred only one officer to the Internal Affairs Bureau even though there were numerous instances of police misconduct corroborated by video, such as student journalists being pepper-sprayed and threatened with an arrest, etc.

The Free Press received an email from a source who goes by “G space” and who’s been in the courtroom for the trials of Sergeant Holly Kanode and Officer Traci Shaw. “G space” does not want to reveal their identity out of fear of being retaliated against, which ironically is the essence of these criminal trials – the right to free speech without the threat of retribution. 

Sgt. Kanode, who was accused of making false statements against a protester so to authorize an arrest, was found not guilty by Franklin County Judge James P. O’Grady in a bench trial. Prosecutors dismissed Officer Shaw’s charges altogether.

Prosecutors had requested Judge O’Grady be removed because he is related to a Columbus police officer, but the Ohio Supreme Court denied the request.

G space wrote in their email that the FOP Capital City Lodge #9 had “lined” the courtroom with supporters to show support (and to intimidate).

“The level of obstruction from the FOP – officers covering for each other, defense attorneys trying to use the media and influence the judges, to the City being caught between wanting to hold officers accountable, but also having to pay out money to the victims who sue the police – it’s unreal,” they wrote.

After Garber resigned, she spoke with WOSU, making this statement: “Well, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And that’s, you know, having prosecuted serial rapists and death penalty cases and domestic violence and everything else.”

FOP Capital City Lodge #9 is offering no apologies for its unabashed support of Sgt. Kanode, Officer Shaw, and many others.

“Just as the investigations conducted by BakerHostetler proved what we knew all along – that officers did not violate City policy – this politically driven prosecution proved that Sgt. Kanode did not violate the law,” wrote union President Jeff Simpson after Judge O’Grady’s acquittal.

According to G space, it was on the third day of Sgt. Kanode’s trial that Garber fainted. “The prosecutor fainted and the trial was put on hold. Members of the FOP who had been lining the courtroom, laughed during their FOP meeting that hopefully she wouldn’t return because no one else would agree to take her case.”

The third criminal trial of the Columbus police response to protesters is scheduled for August. Officer Phillip Walls was charged with assault, dereliction of duty and interfering with civil rights.