Mark A. Elchert Jr., 53, filed a lawsuit through his attorney, Charles Hall, Tuesday against the Seneca County Sheriff’s Office, Lt. Michelle Craig and Officer Stephen Kizer of the Tiffin Police Department and unknown law enforcement officers. The complaint asks for damages on seven claims alleging violations of constitutional rights, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, improper supervision and negligence. On each claim Elchert is asking for damages in excess of $75,000.
“I have a guy with no reason to be arrested sitting in jail for 15 days,” Hall said. “I like to think this is America.”
On July 10, 2006, Elchert and Joey Clinger were arrested by Tiffin Police after Craig was flagged down by Clinger.
Clinger told them Elchert was having trouble with a female as Elchert was trying to move things out of a garage, according to police records. A routine system check by Craig showed Elchert and Clinger had CPOs against each other.
In March 2005, the two men were fighting and had CPOs filed against each other in Seneca County Common Pleas Court, Hall said.
Both orders were dismissed in April of that year, with Judge Michael Kelbley ordering the removal from the National Crime Information System, according to court records.
At the time of the arrest, Elchert told the officers both CPOs had been dismissed by the court. When officers double-checked with the Seneca County Sheriff’s Office, which is responsible for maintaining these records, both orders were shown as still active.
Craig and Kizer arrested both men for violating the CPOs and transported them to the Seneca County Jail, according to police reports. Elchert had been held for 15 days when he appeared before Municipal Court Judge Mark Repp, who dismissed the charges and released him.
Seneca County Sheriff Tom Steyer said he could find no record of receiving the CPO dismissal order from the Seneca County Clerk of Courts office and is attempting to find out what happened.
He also is checking with the corrections officers in an attempt to determine whether Elchert or Clinger told any of his officers the CPOs had been dismissed.
“They should not have been there, that’s for certain,” Steyer said.
Steyer said his office, with limited staff, processes on average 500 CPOs a year, along with registering all sex offenders in the county and concealed weapons permit holders.
“We don’t get extra funding,” Steyer said.
Steyer said he will meet with Seneca County Prosecutor Ken Egbert Jr. in the next couple days to discuss the lawsuit.
Tiffin Police Chief Dave LaGrange said he was unable to comment on the case until he meets with City Law Director Brent Howard.
This is the third lawsuit Hall has filed against the Seneca County Sheriff’s Office.
In May, Heather Shobe, Tiffin, filed a lawsuit against the sheriff’s office alleging her civil rights were violated when she was arrested on a civil contempt charge and not brought before the court until a week later. The charge was later dismissed.
The lawsuit argues the Seneca County Sheriff’s Office, the sheriff and unknown law enforcement officers had a duty to notify the court of her arrest and to make her available for bail “without delay.”
In June, the office was sued by Timothy Norville, Tiffin, for allegations the sheriff’s office violated his right to own a gun.
Norville’s case alleges the sheriff’s office in 1998, when H. Weldin Neff was sheriff, entered his brother’s felony arrest record into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center system under his Social Security number and date of birth, which is preventing him from being able to purchase a gun.