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Report: Ambiguity aided Ohio parolee release

Confusion over rules governing prisoner transfers and lack of communication helps explain why a Texas parolee now suspected in a deadly Craigslist robbery scheme was mistakenly released from Ohio custody twice, according to a state prisons report examining what went wrong in the case of Richard Beasley.

The report says that while Texas correctly informed Ohio its warrant for Beasley did not allow him to be released on bond, a simple phone conversation could have cleared up confusion over Beasley's status.

"Talk to each other," said a recommendation in the report obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.

"The warrant in this case did contain an appropriate notation that no bail was permitted," said the report by Richland County Judge James DeWeese, brought in to examine what happened with Beasley.

"Texas' additional communication that it would not extradite until local charges were disposed created an ambiguity for the sheriff, however," DeWeese wrote. "The initiation of a telephone call by either side ... could have removed the ambiguity about intentions."

The report was released the same day relatives of some of the Craigslist victims had anticipated charges against a 16-year-old boy also arrested in the case.

A Noble County grand jury — which was convened Wednesday — was not presented any cases and did not issue any indictments, Noble County Judge John Nau said.

Jailers, prosecutors and judges should be trained about such warrants and there should be better communication between jails and out-of-state state prison officials, according to the report on Beasley done for the Ohio council of the Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision.

One problem was confusion over how the law treats offenders being held for other Ohio counties compared with other states, DeWeese concluded.

"While ignorance of the law is no excuse, this anomaly of the law for different treatment of offenders under interstate compact supervision from other out of county fugitives from justice is not generally known by judges or sheriffs," he said.

Summit County is reviewing the report to be sure state regulations are being followed, said sheriff's office spokesman Bill Holland. Texas officials declined comment.

Beasley's lawyer said Wednesday in an email there was "multiple telephone communication" between Summit County and Texas officials. "Texas authorities said flat out they would not extradite Beasley UNLESS there was a conviction," said Akron defense attorney Rhonda Kotnik.

The Beasley report said it was unlikely that a set of rules that states agree to on prisoner transfers "intends to require a local jurisdiction to hold an out-of-state offender indefinitely" under such a scenario.

But under existing rules, Summit County should have held Beasley, Roger Wilson, Ohio's deputy administrator for the interstate group overseeing transfers, said Wednesday.

Summit County authorities say they are planning to charge Beasley, 52, with killing three men and wounding a fourth between August and November. Investigators say the men responded to a Craigslist ad promising a job on a cattle ranch in rural Noble County, and were then robbed and shot.

Brogan Rafferty, 16, an acquaintance of Beasley, initially faced juvenile charges in the death of one man and the wounding of another, and now faces the possibility of adult charges.

Atlanta resident Mark Geiger, whose brother, Ralph Geiger, was killed Aug. 9 in Noble County, said he'd anticipated charges against Rafferty on Wednesday. But he thanked prosecutors for the attention they were paying to the case. Rafferty's attorney said he couldn't comment because of a gag order in the case.

Beasley should never have been released from the county jail in Akron, where he was being held on drug charges this summer, Texas officials and the head of a national commission that oversees prisoner-transfer rules said last month.

Yet Beasley left jail on bond July 13, was rearrested July 14 after a traffic stop, then let go again despite the existence of Texas warrants asking he be kept in custody.

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Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached at http://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.

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