CLEVELAND (AP) — Assistant prosecutors in Cleveland "ignored" about 70 rape and sexual assault cases involving juvenile suspects and victims and failed to determine if criminal charges should be filed, the new Cuyahoga County prosecutor said Tuesday.
Prosecutor Michael O'Malley said additional sexual assault complaints involving juveniles are expected to be found in the coming weeks as his office continues reviewing more than 1,900 cases marked inactive in a computer system used by prosecutors.
"There was a conscious decision (by prosecutors) to make some of these cases inactive," O'Malley said. "It's outrageous."
The problem was first reported Monday by Cleveland.com.
Charges have been filed in about a dozen of the 70 cases thus far, O'Malley said, adding that some may not result in charges while others will be sent back to police for further investigation. The review of the inactive cases could result in hundreds of new charges being filed, he said.
The prosecutor's office was first alerted to the problem during O'Malley's first week in office by an advocate from the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center acting on behalf of victims' families who asked for an update about some of the cases that had been ignored.
The review has consumed the prosecutor's office during O'Malley's first six weeks in office. "We're peeling the layers of an onion," he said. "And every day there are more revelations."
Some of the victims in the 70 cases were as young as 3 years old. And some of the cases, which date back three years, would have been easy to prosecute because suspects confessed, O'Malley said.
Three assistant county prosecutors have been forced to resign and four others have been disciplined. O'Malley said he plans to refer prosecutors' names to the Ohio Supreme Court's disciplinary counsel.
It's not clear why prosecutors failed to act on the cases or to enter them into the office's case-management system. O'Malley said he finds it "hard to believe" that his predecessor, Tim McGinty, would have allowed prosecutors to ignore cases. O'Malley defeated McGinty in last year's Democratic primary and was elected by a wide margin in November.
McGinty didn't return telephone messages seeking comment on Tuesday.
O'Malley said some of the prosecutors were new to the job, but he noted that a supervisor who resigned had been on the job for more than a decade.
The Juvenile Court's prosecutor's unit was previously run by Duane Deskins, who was hired last month by the city of Cleveland to lead an anti-violence program involving youths and young adults. Attempts to reach Deskins on Tuesday through a city spokesman were unsuccessful.
Deskins told Cleveland.com he couldn't respond to what O'Malley and his staff have uncovered without details from each case, but said he didn't know cases had been ignored and that there were two levels of supervisors who worked underneath him.