TOLEDO, Ohio — Sandusky County Prosecutor Timothy Braun’s legal career is in jeopardy after pleading guilty to negligent assault last week.
He must resign by June 30 and faces likely discipline from the Ohio Supreme Court Disciplinary Counsel
Braun took office on Jan. 1, 2017. But he spent a substantial amount of time in Lucas County, where he was an assistant prosecutor from 1997 to 2013.
He was a key player in the 2000 aggravated murder case against Wayne Braddy and Karl Willis. The men were convicted of killing 13-year-old Maurice Purifie in 1998. The case has been extensively investigated by 11 Investigates. The multitude of concerns surrounding the case became the heart of August’s “Guilty without Proof” special.
11 INVESTIGATES: GUILTY WITHOUT PROOF
Braun was co-counsel in the case. The only witness that the state had was Travis Slaughter, who cut a plea deal with the state in exchange for his testimony.
Slaughter was interviewed by police for more than six hours in August, 1998. He repeatedly denied involvement in Purifie’s killing, until finally breaking and implicating himself and Braddy and Willis.
But Slaughter has now sat down with 11 Investigates on multiple occasions, and he has consistently told the same story: He was not involved, and he brought up Braddy and Willis only because of a recent falling out the men had. He wanted vengeance, Slaughter told 11 Investigates.
He also told a more troubling tale – that police and prosecutors crafted their own tale to get a conviction in the high-profile case. He said he was forced to tell their story over and over in several meetings until he got it right.
It was a similar story told by Shondrea Rayford, who was also a state witness. However, she stopped testifying during the trial and was held in contempt of court. Jury foreman Jon Crye told 11 Investigates that her stopping was key to the jury finding the men guilty. The jury believed that Rayford was afraid of the men. However, Rayford told 11 Investigates that prosecutors and police wanted her to tell the same story they were telling Slaughter. She said she did not want to lie on the stand.
The recent state investigation into alleged sexual misconduct by Braun in Sandusky County contained a witness interview that could have relevance in the Lucas County case.
A woman told investigators that Braun had a massive ego who described himself as the most powerful man in Sandusky County.
“He would remind us in staff meetings: ‘Do you know how many men I have put on Death Row?” she said, adding that “he can charge anybody with any crime at any given time and it’s his word against somebody else’s.”
Braddy and Willis have repeatedly said they were targeted by police and investigators without any evidence. They continue to maintain their innocence.
During their trial, Braun interviewed lead Detective Bart Beavers about the decisive interview with Slaughter – again, an interview in which Slaughter says was all lies.
In the months after the trial, Beavers sent a letter to Prosecutor Julia Bates, commending Braun for performing the “unthinkable” by convicting Braddy and Willis. The letter was discovered by 11 Investigates after a public records request for Andy Lastra’s personnel file.
Bates did not return a request for comment about why her office prosecuted two men who police believed they had no chance of convicting.
In the first attempt to indict the men, a grand jury returned a “no bill,” meaning they did not believe there was enough evidence.
Prosecutors got an indictment on the second attempt after they said Rayford provided evidence of the men’s involvement. During multiple interviews, Rayford told 11 Investigates that the men were not involved, that she only said what the authorities wanted her to say.
In May, the Ohio Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by Braddy and Willis for a new trial, saying the men have not presented new evidence. But since that time, multiple people, including the victim’s brother, have said the men are innocent. At this point, no one is saying they are guilty.