News 11 Investigates: Career Criminals

By Jonathan Walsh - bio | email

Posted by Nick Dutton - email

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Toledo City Councilman Tom Waniewski says he's tired of people around his district being victims of crime.

News 11's Jonathan Walsh hunted down some of the Waniewski's "dirty dozen" and talked to judges in charge of punishing these career criminals. <Click here to see the Dirty Dozen Slideshow>

Erin Fish lives in Old Orchard. She moved to Toledo from California last summer and says neighbors warned her right away about the seasons in her area.

"First there's the fall, then there's the winter and then the burglars come out right when the weather gets better."

Sure enough, around St. Patrick's Day, someone busted through her car window and tried to steal her child's car seat. After spending 20 years in Los Angeles, she never had anything like that happen before.

A few weeks later, with the shattered glass still fresh in her driveway, Erin got into her car one morning last week, to discover her GPS was stolen.

"I called my husband and said, 'do you have our navigation system? And he said, 'no.' And I knew right away that somebody had been in the car."

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Councilman Tom Waniewski says he's heard about the crime in his district far too much. After doing some research and talking to police, he had a theory: He believes there are a few people causing a lot of headaches and making neighborhoods unsafe.

In fact, he devised a list of those arrested for and or convicted of crimes in and around his district. He sent his list to the City of Toledo Municipal Court. He asked judges in Lucas County to get them off the streets, if they see them in their courtrooms. < Letter from Tom Waniewski to Judge Zmuda (PDF)>

"Some people might call it the revolving door. You get one person in, OK, you got probation, they're out doing the same thing again," says Waniewski.

Judge Timothy Kuhlman from municipal court says judges do look at past records before sentencing.

However, there's a big obstacle: He says CCNO in Stryker is a regional jail used by seven judges. It has just 245 beds, which averages out to 35 beds per judge. Each year Judge Kuhlman says he gets 20,000 to 25,000 cases coming across his bench.

"We are per judge the fourth most highest volume court in the State of Ohio," says Kuhlman.

Judge Gene Zmuda from Common Pleas Court says each conviction does need to be reviewed individually. He adds the state is facing funding problems, too. Because of that he says Ohio could soon release 400 non-violent felons early back into our area.

"That's going to put a greater strain on the local economy and the local criminal justice system to have to deal with that," says Zmuda.

Some of the Waniewski's dirty dozen are in prison, including Dennis Spaiser, Steven Willis, Darian Utley, but others are out and we tracked them down. <The Dirty Dozen Slideshow>

As we went door to door, we found Marland Barner had court papers sticking in his door already.

Others, we were told, were not at home. We never did hear back from Gregory Paquin, but after a couple of attempts, we did hear from Mark Kosky, who has a current case pending, plus convictions of theft  DUI, intoxication and more. <Read the Toledo Municipal Court Recidivism Report (PDF)>

In a phone message Kosky asks, "What would motivate you to come out here and pick on me? I mean I don't do anything to anybody." <Dirty Dozen list of arrests (PDF)>

Kosky has had more than 30 cases go through the Toledo justice system since the late 70s.

City leaders, like Waniewski, want the justice system to be proactive.

"Right now we're reactive and we're reacting on such a thin ice."

Kuhlman says in addition to block watches and other security steps, citizens need to go to court during sentencing and testify to make sure judges know the impact of these criminals on your streets.

"I many times sit on the bench wondering what an appropriate sentence is and I would love to know what is the effect of this person on the neighborhood," says Kuhlman.

The effect on Erin after her experience is clear: She says she doesn't feel safe in her own neighborhood.


Career Criminals: Dirty Dozen list of cases (PDF)

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