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Cops and Courts

Former Lorain County Judge James Burge will face no further court penalties (UPDATED)

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ELYRIA — Former Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge will not face any further penalty for his conviction on misdemeanor falsification and tampering with records charges.

Visiting Judge Dale Crawford said he would not increase Burge’s sentence — $3,000 in fines — during a hearing Friday afternoon. Burge resigned shortly after being convicted in 2015.

The 9th District Court of Appeals, which upheld Burge’s conviction in 2017, had ordered Crawford to hold a new sentencing hearing in the case to clear up issues with how Burge’s sentence was structured.

The charges against Burge stemmed from his failure to disclose his interest in Whiteacre North. The company at the time owned

600 Broadway, a Lorain office building where Burge’s legal offices were before he became a judge in 2007. Several other lawyers also had offices in the building while Burge was a judge.

Burge and his business partners made a deal to sell the building to another attorney, but the deal fell apart in early 2011, and Burge sold his interest in the company to his wife in June of that year for $1.

Crawford said he felt the matter was settled since his understanding was Burge had paid his fines and also had resigned his judgeship.

“The court recognized the penalty that Judge Burge had in respect of this matter when he was originally found guilty and sentenced,” Crawford said. “The court also was very aware of other elected officials statewide that were charged with similar offenses, especially in Franklin County. … The court believed at that time the Supreme Court had required the felony charge be reduced to a misdemeanor. The court made that determination based on the Supreme Court’s decision, but also believed it was a common-sense approach.”

Last month the Ohio Supreme Court decided to not consider Burge’s appeal on his conviction. Burge filed the appeal with the Supreme Court last year and has long maintained that he did nothing illegal in the case, which was centered on financial disclosure forms that judges are required to fill out each year.

Prosecutors also tried to appeal Burge’s conviction, arguing that he should have been convicted of felony versions of the tampering with records charges. Because of an error in how Crawford prepared the jury verdict forms in the case, the charges were reduced to misdemeanors.

“It appears to this court that the court of appeals made the determination that there’s some type of burden on the court and the state, or whatever it is, to articulate its reasoning for the ruling it made,” Crawford said during Friday’s hearing. “I would have a concern if that would be expanded to things like admissibility of evidence — if somebody makes an objection, I say, ‘Overruled,’ and then I don’t put on the record all of my reasonings for it.”

Crawford said he feels the matter is over.

“The fine has been paid, from what I understand,” he said. “The court did not impose any penalty on the tampering charge. It imposed a $1,000 fine on each one of the counts of falsification. The court believes it’s not in anybody’s best interest to extend this thing any further.”

Contact Scott Mahoney at 329-7146 or smahoney@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @SMahoneyCT.


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