In this week’s issue of Scene, our feature story delves into the world of Summit County Juvenile Court, where discipline isn’t always handed down the way it should be.
“Canning Miss A
” tells the tale of Laura Asbury, a model detention officer who dedicated seven years to helping at-risk girls stay out of trouble. The fruits of her devotion are evident in the girls themselves – girls once destined for sad, destructive paths who are now holding down jobs, going to school, and learning to love themselves again. And every one of them will tell you that they couldn’t have done it without their dear Miss A...
However, Asbury’s boss, Judge Linda Teodosio, wasn’t so impressed by the 32-year-old’s good works. Last year, Teodosio fired Asbury based on a former inmate’s ludicrous claims and after Asbury filed a complaint against one of Teodosio’s favorite lackeys. The Unemployment Commission later ruled Asbury’s firing unjust.
But other detention employees claim that Asbury is no anomaly. Teodosio appears to have a habit of coming down hard on politically unconnected staffers for minor infractions, while she turns her head to the misadventures of her patronage employees. And she hands out justice in a similar fashion.
On March 19, Robert Underwood, a 17-year-old Tallmadge High football player, was found guilty of raping another teammate. He claimed that the incident was part of a hazing prank, in which he penetrated the kid multiple times with a sipping straw. By law, his conviction warranted a Tier 3 sex offender registration – the highest there is. Underwood was also looking at a maximum of four years in a youth correctional facility.
But on Monday, Teodosio didn’t seem to think that first degree rape warranted any prison time. Instead, she placed Underwood on probation and sentenced him to little more than counseling. And his accomplices, who pleaded guilty to hazing, were given 40 hours of community service – the same kids who laughed as the victim’s sister read an emotional statement before the judge, prompting her to scold them for being so disrespectful.
It was an odd move. The last time Teodosio was faced with a juvenile rape case, she had 17-year-old Pierre Logan bound over to adult court in 2003. And if you read “Canning Miss A,” you’ll know that 17-year-old Tyresa Gissendaner, who was also charged with a first degree felony after she stabbed her boyfriend, was also bound over and is now serving a five year prison term at Marysville.
Maybe the disparity in justice has something to do with the fact that Pierre and Gissendaner are both black kids who had public defenders. Underwood is a white kid whose parents shelled out big bucks for a private attorney.
It’s just a hunch – and the word buzzing around the courthouse. But either way, such inconsistencies don’t look so good, especially in an election year. --Denise Grollmus