Wednesday, July 24, 2019 Elyria 62°

Cops and Courts

Appeals court upholds conviction of former judge Burge


ELYRIA — A state appeals court has upheld the conviction of former Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge on misdemeanor charges of falsification and tampering with records.

In a decision handed down Monday, the 9th District Court of Appeals disagreed with Burge’s arguments that the evidence against him didn’t support the convictions that led to his resignation from the bench in 2015.

“Having reviewed the record, we cannot conclude that the jury lost its way when it determined that Burge was guilty of falsification and tampering with records,” the decision said. “The jury heard testimony that Burge omitted necessary information from his 2011, 2012, and 2013 financial disclosure forms.”

The allegations against Burge centered on whether he failed to disclose his interest in Whiteacre North, which owned 600 Broadway, a Lorain office building where Burge’s law practice was based until he took office in 2007.

Burge and his business partners, including his wife, had cut a deal to sell the building to another lawyer, but that deal fell apart in early 2011. Burge then transferred his interest in the company to his wife in June for $1.

Burge declined to comment on the decision, which did conclude that Visiting Judge Dale Crawford erred in not conducting a full analysis on whether the charges Burge was convicted of should have been considered separate charges or merged together when Crawford was considering what sentence to impose.

The appeals court ordered Crawford to hold a new hearing on that issue.

Crawford ordered Burge to pay $3,000 in fines when he sentenced him in early 2016.

The appeals court also refused to consider an appeal from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office, which prosecuted the case, because that appeal was filed late.

Prosecutors had argued that Crawford improperly reduced the tampering with records charges against Burge from felonies to misdemeanors because of a mistake in how the jury verdict forms were prepared.

Dan Tierney, a spokesman for DeWine, said although prosecutors were pleased the convictions were upheld, they disagreed that their appeal was filed late.

“We are reviewing the matter to determine if we will take it further,” he said.

Burge, who has returned to serving as a defense attorney, also is facing possible sanctions from the Ohio Supreme Court thanks to an ethics complaint filed last year that centers on the criminal case as well as several other actions he took on the bench, including writing inflammatory letters to legislators and using racially-charged language on the bench.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or Follow him on Twitter @BradDickenCT.

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