Justice rejects bid to disqualify Repp

An affidavit seeking to disqualify Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court Judge Mark Repp from presiding over an underage possession/consumption case was denied Friday.

The affidavit, which had been filed by an attorney representing Rachel M. Pennington, who was 19 at the time of the accident, of McCutchenville, was denied by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, who had been sitting by assignment in Seneca County Common Pleas Court after Seneca County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Kelbley recused himself from making the decision on disqualifying Repp in this case.

According to O’Connor’s judgment entry, filed Monday in Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court, no basis had been established to order the disqualification of Repp, and he will continue to preside over the case.

James Nordholt Jr., Pennington’s attorney, claimed Repp had a fixed pre-disposition on Pennington’s potential sentence and that an appearance of partiality existed if Repp would decide the underlying case because a son of the Seneca County Probate Court’s chief clerk was killed in the accident.

Repp claimed he had no conflict in the underlying case and requested the affidavit be denied, according to the judgment entry.

“I think the Supreme Court made the right decision” Repp said Monday.

Pennington was one of four charged with underage possession/consumption in Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court earlier this year in connection to a single-vehicle accident Oct. 27, 2012, on TR 71A. The accident, which involved speed and alcohol, claimed the life of 20-year-old Jacob Hohman, of Bascom, who had been a passenger.

In December, the driver of the vehicle, Kevin T. Wertz, 22, of Bascom, was found guilty of vehicular homicide and sentenced to six months in jail. Two occupants of a second vehicle that had been behind the pick-up truck, Shiloh Sauber, 22, of Tiffin, and Dylan Shellhouse, 20, of Tiffin, were convicted of underage possession/consumption and were sentenced by Repp to 30 days in jail in February.

A third person who also was a passenger in Wertz’s vehicle, Alexander Ratchen, 20, of Tiffin, also was charged with underage possession/consumption. Last month, an affidavit of disqualification filed by Ratchen’s attorney against Repp was granted by Kelbley.

Ratchen’s attorney claimed Repp wanted to sentence Ratchen to 30 days in jail and would not consider a lesser sentence.

The affidavit claimed personal bias or prejudice and stated that from October through February, all 19 defendants convicted of a first-time underage violation in Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court were placed in a diversion program and not given jail time.

That affidavit also cited the offense of underage possession/consumption as a victimless crime and that Repp’s sentence was influenced by Hohman’s death.

According to documents from Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court, Judge Herbert Eldo Adams has been assigned by the Supreme Court of Ohio to preside over Ratchen’s case.