CLEVELAND, OH – When this writer served as a former East Cleveland mayor’s chief of staff during Una Keenon’s term as the city’s judge in 1998 my late first cousin, Stanley Yancey, worked as an armed security guard for Wells Fargo and made the daily drive to city hall to pick up court funds for deposits in an armored vehicle.
During Sandra Williams’ term as judge, while this writer served as the city’s mayor for 4 years between 2006 and 2009, it was armed court bailiffs who daily delivered the money to the bank. For some strange reason Judge Will Dawson thought it was smart to send his administrative assistant and yoga partner all by herself to the bank with $17,977 he’d built up by holding instead of depositing the money daily.
On that September 6, 2018 day Laura Smith claimed to have been robbed. On her Facebook page Smith shared pictures of her and Dawson together with her sister in Las Vegas. A Clevelander living in Las Vegas saw them “spending money like crazy.” A source close to Dawson says he likes to gamble. It doesn’t take a genius to see through this flimsy bullshit.
A twice-convicted private citizen impersonating an East Cleveland law enforcement officer named Scott Gardner told Russian-owned Advance Ohio’s cleveland.com reporter and Russian American Eric Heisig he submitted information to the FBI about Smith after the robbery. Gardner claimed her story was inconsistent with the evidence he’d gathered while impersonating a detective. [NOTE: Gardner was indicted on felony charges in Cuyahoga and Medina counties and pled guilty to misdemeanors in each offense.]
At the time he conducted his private investigation of Smith’s robbery and the “dumb” story behind it while impersonating a detective bureau commander, Gardner was also engaged in theft and creating fraudulent documents to submit to law enforcement officials in furtherance of his scheme to violate Dawson’s aide’s constitutional rights with expired and faked Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy credentials.
The twice-convicted private citizen had no legal authority to perform a law enforcement officer’s duties, or create the official documents associated with the criminal justice system for “certified” law enforcement officers. Like 23 other private individuals impersonating law enforcement officers, Gardner has been referred by Judge John Russo to Cuyahoga County Michael O’Malley to receive his third felony indictment after he accepted a criminal complaint against him from Chasing Justice’s Mariah Crenshaw. Ohio’s Attorney General has twice in writing ordered Gardner to cease performing a law enforcement officer’s duties and wearing a weapon.
Dawson knows he’s got troubles because of all the “close” people he hired with criminal records no law allows near law enforcement tools. FBI agents arrested Smith for lying about the robbery. She’s already pleaded guilty at her arraignment and their relationship is “close.”
But what should worry the “cycle breaking” judge is everything else Smith has shared about what he’s been doing now she knows lying to FBI agents is a crime. What “truths” do they now know about her “yogola” partner?
Dawson should also be concerned about the trail of pissed-off ex-workers who have the dirt on him and are now gleefully sharing it with anyone who will listen. Smith’s arrest and guilty plea is their confirmation that they were right.
The late Supreme Court of Ohio Chief Justice Thomas Moyer told this writer during a visit to Brush High school in 1998 that Keenon ran the worst court in the state after he ordered then State Auditor Jim Petro to conduct a special audit. $38,000 in alleged missing cash was found in a file cabinet after a year. Keenon was 11 months behind in filing court reports due the 15th of each month. Former court clerk Loretta Weems accused her of loaning money to workers and delaying daily deposits until they repaid.
Since taking office in 2012, Dawson appears to have patterned himself after Keenon instead of the honest and administratively competent Williams he took great pains to defeat by letting cash pile up. Friends say he wanted to be a television judge so Dawson was building a brand for what he thought was progressive and “cycle breaking” justice instead of reading, mastering and obeying the laws, regulations and rules that controlled and limited his conduct as a judge. He picked the wrong mentor in Keenon.
It’s in the area of court laws, rules and sound administrative practice Keenon didn’t master, and what appears to be his “thirst for money” that could cause trouble for Dawson for patterning himself to some extent after her.
The judge was accused in 2014 of harassing a former employee who blew the whistle on his instructing court employees to let Samara Johnson take the tests in their name to receive certification from the Ohio Highway Patrol to gain access and input information into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and Law Enforcement Automated Data Systems (LEADS). These were federal law violations the Ohio Highway Patrol has poorly enforced across the state.
Federal laws restrict who can even see NCIC or LEADS information the FBI is storing on citizens without that person’s written permission under the 1974 Privacy Act; and the only authorized use of LEADS for officers on the street is “for their protection” during a traffic stop before they get out of the car and approach the driver for another reason other than an NCIC hit. The FBI has instructed in its NCIC 2000 Manual under the heading “Data and Probable Cause” that “an NCIC hit, alone, is not probable cause to arrest.”
One employee’s theft felony prevented him from having any access to the NCIC or LEADS database. Dawson authorized Johnson to take his certification test so he could access it. Dawson allegedly gave the employee who manages his personal property the highest raise in the court in 2014. Maurise Sanders is another ex-offender and close Dawson friend whose access to the FBI’s privacy-protected criminal records information system should never have occurred. He served time in prison for credit card abuse.
Once she exposed their federal felony violations of law regarding NCIC / LEADS, Dawson and his employees, my source said, took the perspective that “this little bitch ruined it for us all” and harassed her out of a job.
The employee was issued four reprimands between December 11 and December 15, 2014; and was slandered as “having mental problems” and “needing professional help” by Dawson’s staff though she was right in obeying the laws they were dogging. When she reached out to the Ohio Highway Patrol for an investigation, my source said Dawson told her to stop. This writer contacted Dawson when he learned of his federal law violations and warned him of the severity of federal and state law penalties associated with NCIC and LEADS misuse.
What should alarm the public about Dawson granting NCIC and LEADS access to ex-offenders is how criminally-minded police, prosecutors, judges and their employees can use and alter criminal records history information in U.S. citizens and locate them.
- In Fairfield, California, ex-cops Steven Ruiz and Jacob Glashof accessed the NCIC database to search women whose profiles they identified on Tindr and other social media sites like Facebook. A search warrant is required for cops to investigate a person’s social media page.
- In Michigan, state trooper Artis White used it to locate his ex-wife, Bernita Sims. She was later shot to death by a sniper in front of her daughter at the Detroit zoo.
- In New York city private investigator Joseph Dwyer paid cop Ronald Buell $9000 to investigate two jurors through the NCIC database. Both were charged by U.S. Attorney Preet Bahara of the Southern District of New York for these “federal” felony offenses.
- Akron’s ex-police chief, former FBI agent James Nice, was indicted and convicted in 2018 for his nephew’s misuse of the NCIC database. Private individuals like Gardner or Larry McDonald who operate security companies can offer background checks to clients through NCIC; a use that is “federal felony” serious. County and city prosecutors in Ohio have not made NCIC / LEADS enforcement a priority because prosecutors are also profiteers and abusers. They’re the most culpable in uploading or failing to correct inaccurate information.
Access to the NCIC database gave Dawson’s ex-offender employees the potential to alter their own criminal histories; and those of their relatives and friends. It gave them the power to add a criminal history to a person who didn’t have one or to sell the information to drug dealers about their associates who owe money or enemies.
Congress was told by the Government Accounting Office in a March 2015 report that the information on half the people in the NCIC database is inaccurate. They’ve ripped state agencies like the Ohio Highway Patrol for the widespread criminal misuse, mismanagement and unaccountability that exists in courts like Dawson’s across the nation. The FBI should investigate why the Ohio Highway Patrol’s investigation of the “test fraud” and “offender access” accusations against Dawson and his employees failed to result in criminal charges.
Dawson’s operation of the municipal court and some of his practices don’t resemble the state’s laws and Supreme court’s rules of superintendence. Nowhere is this more blatant than in how he’s assigned “fines” to crimes for “outdated local ordinances” that conflict with the state’s general laws.
The location, structure and duties of municipal courts are found in Title 19 of Ohio’s Revised Code. Ohio is a “home rule” state but “uniform” laws have been established by the state’s general assembly for everything from traffic enforcement, housing codes, drug laws, health laws and now, recently, gun laws. All local gun ordinances were cancelled by the state in R.C. 9.68 when lawmakers affirmed every citizen’s right to bear arms.
9.68 Right to bear arms – challenge to law. (A) The individual right to keep and bear arms, being a fundamental individual right that predates the United States Constitution and Ohio Constitution, and being a constitutionally protected right in every part of Ohio, the general assembly finds the need to provide uniform laws throughout the state regulating the ownership, possession, purchase, other acquisition, transport, storage, carrying, sale, or other transfer of firearms, their components, and their ammunition. Except as specifically provided by the United States Constitution, Ohio Constitution, state law, or federal law, a person, without further license, permission, restriction, delay, or process, may own, possess, purchase, sell, transfer, transport, store, or keep any firearm, part of a firearm, its components, and its ammunition.
So whether they’ve updated their ordinances or not to obey and comply with state laws, as East Cleveland’s council has not done, Dawson has no choice but to obey them. Police can’t enforce the city’s local gun ordinances. He can’t process their arrests and fine under them.
The most disturbing revelation is Dawson’s $250 fine for minor misdemeanors that are limited to $150 under R.C. 2929.28. The judge hasn’t attended a council budget hearing in the last six years to detail to the legislative authority how much he’s collected and where he’s placed the money; or how he accounts for the “extra” $100 charged for minor misdemeanors state law capped at $150. It’s not known if the $17,977 in stolen money was from one day’s court collections or if he’s following Keenon’s practice of holding instead of deposting the money daily.
Councilman Nathaniel Martin “went off” recently when Dawson told them 30 minutes was all the time he’d spend with council answering questions. Martin is considering a subpoena if he doesn’t.
Ward 2 Councilwoman-elect Juanita Gowdy said she’s considering referring him to the Supreme Court once she takes office. Revelations that Dawson granted a favor to Larry McDonald to release a woman he arrested and wanted to date was enough.
McDonald is another private citizen who has violated Ohio attorney general’s order for him to stop performing a law enforcement officer’s duties and wearing a weapon. Dawson should have long ago ordered a review of the arrests the “private citizens” brought before his court while they were under the state attorney general’s orders not to discharge thed duties of law enforcement officers and wear weapons. He ignored and then claims to have “lost” an R.C. 2935.09 and 2935.10 “complaint on knowledge” Anderson filed against individuals impersonating law enforcement officers in his court.
Since some of the local ordinances Dawson thinks he has the authority to establish fines for haven’t been updated since 1973, it would have been smart for him to charge under state laws rather than local ordinances instead of making up his own. Currently the court’s website reads its fines are “Being Updated.”
Council doesn’t know if he’s returned the “extra” money or if the city might face yet another lawsuit for constitutional rights violations and excessive fines the judge simply made up.
What city officials do know is the judge’s pregnant ex-aide lied about the $17,977 she took last year before their trip to Las Vegas.