Suspended Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader remains free on bond despite having allegedly violated a court order not to have any contact with potential witnesses in his upcoming criminal trial.
Reader stands accused of 16 counts, including eight felonies and eight misdemeanors, ranging from theft in office to tampering with evidence. According to a filing by Special Prosecutor Robert Smith, Reader and his attorneys were handed a list of potential witnesses on the day of Reader’s arraignment in early July.
Visiting Judge Chris Martin, who is presiding over the case in the Pike County Court of Common Pleas, barred Reader from having any contact with potential witnesses as a condition of his release on a signature bond.
According to a filing by Smith, on July 2 Reader sent a text message to Frederic “Chip” Foill, whose name Smith wrote is on the witness list provided to the defendant, namely Reader.
Smith added that on Aug. 15, investigators for Ohio Auditor of State Keith Faber were made aware Reader had contacted someone on the prosecution’s witness list, namely Foill. State investigators interviewed Foill Aug. 21 and he allegedly confirmed contact with the suspended sheriff. Investigators also said Foill provided a screen shot of the following cell phone texts traded with Reader:
9:32 a.m. — Reader: Miss you brother
1:51 p.m. — Reader: Are you not speaking to me
2:21 p.m. — Foill: I love to brother but I was told by the state I wasn’t (sic) aloud too
Reader: okay, you wasn’t (sic) on my “no contact list” sorry…
During the pretrial held Thursday morning in front of Martin, there was no mention of the alleged contact between Reader and Foill, despite it being an alleged violation of Reader’s release. Following the conclusion of the hearing, asked by several members of the media why the issue was not raised, Smith stated, “It’s been resolved.”
Citing a gag order put in place by Martin preventing persons connected with the case from speaking with the media, Smith declined any further comment.
Regarding other issues discussed during the pretrial, Martin moved Reader’s February jury trial to April. Martin stated he fears inclement weather could create hardships for jury members and witnesses.
“It could cause havoc to the trial,” Martin said.
Martin granted a prosecution motion asking Reader to be barred from using alcohol or illegal drugs in the time leading up to his trial. Smith argued it was a routine motion. However, defense attorney James Boulger countered Reader’s case is not routine and there is no reason for the ban. While he granted Smith’s basic motion, after citing there was no evidence of Reader abusing any substance, Martin denied a request that Reader be required to undergo periodic testing for banned substances.
On yet another front, Martin ruled Reader is permitted to carry a concealed handgun for protection. Boulger argued the embattled sheriff and his family have been the object of death threats and that Reader obviously is trained in the use of firearms and has a right to protect himself and his family.
Lastly, Martin granted a defense motion allowing Reader somewhat greater freedom to go out of state to tend to business interests in Pennsylvania and possibly to visit a sister living in the Carolinas. Previously, Reader was required to inform Martin prior to leaving Ohio. He now needs only to provide the Pike County Probation Office with 24 hour notice prior to going out of state. Reader or his attorney also must notify Smith by a text message whenever Reader exits Ohio.
Reach Tom Corrigan at 740-370-0715.