Cuyahoga County Assistant Prosecutor Aaron Brockler has been fired by his boss, County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty, after it was discovered that Brockler had assumed a fake identity on Facebook to manipulate defense witnesses in a pending murder case.
Damon Dunn is accused of shooting and killing Kenneth Adams at a Cleveland car wash in 2012. Dunn has two alibis who defense counsel said will testify at trial that Dunn was in a park on the other side of town at the time Adams was gunned down.
The alibis, two women who were acquaintances of Dunn, were the targets of Brockler’s Facebook “ruse” (as he calls it). Posing as the mother of Dunn’s fictitious child, Brockler contacted the women in the hopes that they would abandon their support of Dunn’s story if they heard he had a son by another woman. The Plain Dealer quotes Brockler saying that his story made the women “go crazy” and when he met with them the following day (as himself, the prosecutor on the case) they said they were not prepared to lie for Dunn anymore. Brockler never told the women that he was the person they had chatted with on Facebook the day before.
County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty acted fast to conduct a disciplinary inquiry after another prosecutor in the office discovered what Brockler had done. Brockler was fired soon thereafter. McGinty also informed the judge and defense counsel about the incident, removed his office from the case and handed it over to the Ohio Attorney General.
However, an editorial by The Plain Dealer calls on McGinty to go further and conduct an inquiry to determine whether firing Brockler adequately addresses the issue:[Brockler’s] actions have called into question, yet again, the culture of a Prosecutor’s Office that has often been accused — and sometimes convicted — of being more zealous about winning cases than about seeing justice done.
The editorial says Brockler’s conduct throws his other convictions into doubt since he has been working in the office since 2006. The editorial also refers to misconduct by former Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Carmen Marino who rose to prominence during the 80’s and 90’s for his zeal and success, but was ultimately found to have engaged in repeated misconduct. The Ohio Supreme Court has so far reversed five of his convictions on account of prosecutorial misconduct, and that is only the half of it.
McGinty must be praised for his quick and decisive handling of Brockler’s ethical violation – commentators have noted how difficult it is to ask prosecutors offices to regulate themselves as the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office has here. However, a history of misconduct in the office and Brockler’s assertion that prosecutors “have long engaged in the practice of using a ruse to obtain the truth” demands a full inquiry in this case, as noted by The Plain Dealer, with findings that are available to the public.