Alleged Heroin Dealer Released From Cuyahoga County Jail Despite Federal Indictment

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Brandon Wagner was arrested back on May 4th after a Cuyahoga County grand jury indicted him in the death of Cory Cooke, a 23-year-old Lakewood man who died after a fatal overdose of an opiate Wagner allegedly sold him.

That charge was superseded by a federal indictment for the same crime, which came down on June 14 from the U.S. Attorney's office after a federal grand jury voted for charges. That case, assigned to U.S. District Judge Christopher Boyko, has not yet gone to trial but Boyko had ordered him held.

So when Brandon Wagner was released from the Cuyahoga County jail earlier this month, the question was why. 

(To be clear, Wagner promptly turned himself in to federal authorities and is now back in custody.) 

A call to Ken Mills, the county's regional director of corrections, was not returned, but instead forwarded to county spokesperson Mary Louise Madigan.

Madigan, relaying information from Mills, says that the release of Wagner wasn't an accidental release. Instead, she says, Wagner was brought in on one manslaughter charge and two probation violations in May. That county-level manslaughter charge was then dismissed on June 26 (after his federal indictment), but he was held on the probation violations. Then, on September 6, those violations were cleared and the county released him the same day.

"It wasn't an erroneous release," Madigan says. "At the time of this guy's release all charges were clear. Apparently, the Feds had other charges on him but there wasn't a hold on him."

A "hold" is what pops up when a prisoner is processed. Corrections officers scan the inmate's fingerprint and any warrants or other charges then pop up. In this case, the federal charges would have popped up and Wagner would then, ideally, have been transferred to the custody of the U.S. Marshals.

Madigan says no such hold showed in this case, but officers don't always follow protocol and the Cuyahoga County jail has misreleased inmates before. For example, there's the case of Richard Franklin, a three-time felon who the jail accidentally released in 2014. He was charged with burglary and aggravated assault after breaking into a Lakewood' woman's house and assaulting her. Once the jail time for a misdemeanor ran out, corrections officers at the county jail released him without noticing the pending felony case. He was then on the run for nine months before being apprehended. 

Channel 5 talked to Mills about the case last year.

Ken Mills took over as Cuyahoga County's Regional Director of Corrections in March of 2015 and blames the release on "human error" that "never should have happened."

"There's a series of checks we do to make sure this doesn't happen and we missed one of those checks," said Mills.

But Franklin's release is not the first time a jail inmate has been accidentally released from the county jail.

"It happens three to five times a year," said Mills, who added that similar accidental releases occur at jails across the country largely due to jail overcrowding and volumes of documentation for each inmate.

"We process 30,000 jail releases a year," said Mills, who also concedes the jail did not notify the Lakewood assault victim that Franklin has been released.

The county additionally told Channel 5 that they added a fourth level of screening to prevent accidental releases from happening in the future.

And yet, they released Wagner this month. And, from what we've heard, there were three accidental releases in the last two months.

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