Prosecutor knew about cages in ’03, worker says

Date: 2007-01-25

Prosecutor knew about cages in ’03, worker says

Children’s guardian accuses officials of lying

Thursday, January 25, 2007
Mark Puente
Plain Dealer Reporter

Norwalk — Huron County Prosecutor Russ Leffler knew of the so-called cages in Michael and Sharen Gravelle’s home in August 2003, a social worker’s notes reveal.

But Leffler declined to act because it was an election year, the notes say. Leffler was running for re-election and was elected to his fourth term in 2004.

Leffler did not return calls Wednesday for comment. Since September 2005, he has said numerous times that he did not know about the Gravelles or the wooden and wire enclosures.

Attorneys Ken Myers and Richard Drucker, who represent the Gravelles, filed a brief Wednesday in preparation for a hearing today in Huron County Common Pleas Court. They are asking Judge Earl McGimpsey to set aside the jury’s verdict or allow a new trial based on the new information.

“The potential consequences of this information are staggering,” Myers wrote.

The county turned over the notes last year for a Juvenile Court hearing, but redacted many portions, including Leffler’s comments with social workers, the brief says.

Last month, a jury found each of the Gravelles guilty of 11 of 24 counts of child endangerment and child abuse. Prosecutors focused on enclosures, which they called cages, that the couple built around some of their 11 adopted, special-needs children’s beds.

The Gravelles maintained throughout the trial that county officials knew of the enclosures years before the children were taken from the home in September 2005. They will be sentenced Feb. 15. The children were placed for adoption last March.

Myers requested the notes before the criminal case, but Leffler did not want to duplicate materials already given months earlier, the brief says.

Margaret Kern, a court-appointed guardian for the children, provided the unredacted notes to Myers Tuesday with a sworn affidavit, ordered by the judge, in which she accuses county social workers of lying during the trial.

The affidavit says she spent more than 1,000 hours reviewing case files for the 11 children. Kern accuses David Broehl, a social services’ administrator, of knowing about the enclosures in 2003 and providing “inaccurate and not truthful” testimony.

Broehl testified that he did not know about the enclosures, regardless of what the notes said. Kern told county commissioners on Jan 4. that they needed to investigate her perjury claims.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:, 440-324-3773

© 2007 The Plain Dealer


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