- Associated Press - Friday, June 5, 2015

CLEVELAND (AP) - Defense attorneys expressed anger Friday with a prosecution attempt to move the trial of five police supervisors from the court where a white police officer recently was acquitted of voluntary manslaughter in the deaths of two black suspects.

The five defendants are scheduled for trial July 27 in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas court on two counts each of misdemeanor dereliction of duty. But an assistant county prosecutor said Thursday the county would dismiss the indictment obtained a year ago if the same charges are filed in East Cleveland municipal court.

Prosecutors say the five supervisors failed to control a 22-mile-long, high-speed chase that ended with the fatal shootings in East Cleveland on Nov. 29, 2012. The chase involved more than 100 Cleveland police officers and 60 police cruisers. Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams were killed in a barrage of 137 shots by police.

The prosecutor’s office said Friday that if the case is moved to municipal court, the same attorneys who have been working on the case would try it.

Cleveland defense attorneys Henry Hilow and David Grant said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty was “forum shopping” to get the trial moved out of the courtroom of the judge who recently acquitted Michael Brelo, who fired 15 shots at the end of the barrage while standing on the hood of the suspects’ car.

Grant said McGinty is trying to improve his office’s chances for a conviction.

The lone municipal judge in East Cleveland is black. If the trial is held in East Cleveland and the supervisors ask for a jury trial, the pool of potential jurors would be drawn from a city where 93 percent of the population is black.

“There’s nothing in the terms of the word ‘justice’ that should allow them to do it,” Hilow said of moving the trial.

McGinty raised issues of race before patrolman Michael Brelo’s manslaughter trial when the officer asked that Common Pleas Judge John P. O’Donnell decide the case instead of a jury. McGinty objected and filed an unsuccessful motion that said a bench trial would deprive black Cuyahoga County residents of a chance to sit on a jury in Brelo’s case.

McGinty said in a statement Friday that the trial could be moved because “East Cleveland is the city where this out-of-control chase put citizens’ lives in danger and predictably concluded in tragedy. They picked the jurisdiction when (the supervisors) allowed this to happen in East Cleveland.”

Misdemeanor charges are typically tried in municipal courts. Dereliction of duty is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 90 days in jail and a $750 fine.

The supervisors are currently on restricted duty but are being paid.

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