17:56, August 21 164 0 theguardian.com

2017-08-21 17:56:03
Father of Ohio high school football player convicted of rape shoots judge

The man who shot and wounded a judge outside a county courthouse before being shot dead by a probation officer was the father of a Steubenville High School football player who was convicted of rape in 2013, authorities said on Monday.

Jefferson County Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr was shot at around 8am near the courthouse in Steubenville, just across the Ohio River from West Virginia’s northern panhandle, roughly 30 miles west of Pittsburgh.

Authorities identified the gunman as Nathaniel “Nate” Richmond, father of Ma’Lik Richmond, who served about 10 months in a juvenile lockup after being convicted with another Steubenville High School football player of raping a 16-year-old girl at an alcohol-fueled party in 2012.

The case brought international attention to the eastern Ohio city of 18,000 and led to allegations of a coverup to protect the football team.

Investigators were still looking for a motive in the shooting and had not found a connection to the rape case, said Jefferson County prosecutor Jane Hanlin. A visiting judge from Hamilton County, where Cincinnati is located, handled the vast majority of the rape case.

Courthouse video on Monday showed the judge and Nate Richmond firing about five times each, said Jefferson County sheriff Fred Abdalla.

“Whoever thought this could happen here?” he said.

Steubenville city manager James Mavromatis told WTOV-TV that Bruzzese spoke after being wounded. He was flown to a Pittsburgh-area hospital. Republican governor John Kasich said he was told the judge would survive.

The attack had to be intentional because people know about the reserved spots where judges park, said one of Bruzzese’s judicial colleagues.

Judge Joseph Corabi said he and the county’s two other judges park in reserved spots next to the courthouse. Judges then walk a few feet down “Courthouse Alley” to a side entrance to the building, said Corabi, the Jefferson County juvenile and probate court judge.

“Everybody knows who parks there. That’s why it’s not an accident what happened. He was clearly an intended target,” Corabi said.

Ma’Lik Richmond is currently on the Youngstown State football team but is not allowed to play in any games, the school said earlier this month in responding to criticism surrounding his participation.

Corabi said Bruzzese was known as an avid hunter. He called him fair, hard-working, well-liked and “a tough son of a gun”.

“He is very intelligent and he can cut to the chase,” Corabi said. “He spots issues and he resolves the issues.”

Bruzzese, 65, hears general and domestic relations cases as one of two judges serving in Jefferson County common pleas court. He has served on that court since 1997, according to Ohio supreme court records. He was most recently re-elected in 2014 for another six-year term.

Bruzzese had likely arrived early to review his usual Monday morning batch of legal motions, Corabi said.

Local media reported that the suspect’s body could be seen lying next to a car at the drive-thru of a neighboring bank. Police said a man who was in the car with him was taken into custody.

The courthouse was closed for the day as local and state authorities helped secure the scene. Jefferson County commissioner Thomas Graham told WTOV some courthouse workers witnessed the “tragic situation” and that people would need time to process what had happened.

The state crime lab will help investigate the shooting, said Republican attorney general Mike DeWine. The chief justice of the Ohio supreme court called the attack a “cowardly ambush” and urged court personnel – especially judges – to take extra precautions.

The attack “reminds us all of the very real potential for violence against judges”, Maureen O’Connor said. “Violence against judges represents an attack on the rule of law, the foundation of our country.”