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Lucas Co. judge accused of inappropriately helping inmate get out of jail suspended for 6 months

Judge Michael Goulding was accused of helping a family friend bond out of jail quickly in February 2019.
Credit: WTOL 11

TOLEDO, Ohio — A  Lucas County judge was suspended from practicing law for six months as of June 12. 

However Judge Michael Goulding's suspension is halted as long as he completes two hours of continuing legal education in judicial ethics and as long as he engages in no further misconduct.

Goulding was accused of helping a family friend bond out of jail quickly in February 2019. 

That suspect was charged with distributing nude photos of a minor on Friday, Feb. 15, 2019. He had an arraignment date scheduled for the following Tuesday. 

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The complaint against the judge states Goulding violated three rules of professional conduct, which included not acting in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary; abusing the prestige of judicial office to advance personal or economic interests; and initiating, permitting or considering ex parte communications. 

Goulding received a call on Sunday evening from a family friend asking for his help with their minor daughter and her boyfriend, the suspect in question. The friend explained to the judge the charges against their daughter's boyfriend related to his ex-girlfriend, also a minor, according to records.

Documents state the judge proceeded to call Lucas County Pretrial Services and asked if the suspect was in custody, the nature of the charges against the suspect and if they had assessed the suspect's flight risk. 

Pretrial services informed Goulding that their recommendation was to release the suspect under "supervised own recognizance" and under the condition of him not having any contact with his ex-girlfriend. Additionally, Goulding learned the suspect was on probation from the Maumee Municipal Court for aggravated menacing, according to the complaint against him.

Goulding then ordered the suspect's bond to be set with the no-contact order, which allowed for the inmate's immediate release, court documents read. 

The complaint also states the judge talked over the phone with the suspect on more than one occasion and with the suspect's lawyer that Sunday night.

Goulding questioned the suspect on the charges regarding his ex-girlfriend. After the suspect answered the questions, the conversation ended with him thanking the judge, according to records.

The suspect was released without bail that night, which wouldn't have happened without Goulding's interference, the complaint states.

On Tuesday, Goulding left a voice message with the judge handling the suspect's case, advising him he had set bond for the suspect, according to the complaint.

The prosecutor working on the suspect's case found out about the conversations between the inmate and Goulding while preparing discovery and listening to jail phone calls.

As a result, the prosecutor listed Goulding as a witness against the suspect. 

The suspect ended up making a deal with the prosecution and pleading guilty. 

A response to the complaint from Goulding's lawyer filed with the Ohio Supreme Court denies most violations, except that the judge had contact with the suspect. 

An email was sent to Goulding's lawyer for comment, but WTOL 11 did not receive an immediate answer.

The board could vote on the discipline against Goulding in June.