Williams County Sheriff Steve Towns has entered not guilty pleas to three misdemeanors.
Towns entered the pleas in Bryan Municipal Court through his attorneys Steven Groth, Robert Miller and Henry Schaefer.
The not guilty pleas are in response to charges filed last month by special prosecutor Mark Weaver on behalf of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. The charges are improperly disclosing confidential information, a first degree misdemeanor, and two counts of improperly releasing child abuse reports, both fourth degree misdemeanors.
The charges allege that on Oct. 19, 2018, Towns posted hundreds of pages of information online to the Williams County Sheriff’s website and Facebook page.
In a statement released June 21 announcing the charges, Weaver said Towns’ postings included “at least two confidential reports of suspected child abuse made by medical professionals. In addition, at least one child victim was illegally identified in the internet posting made by the sheriff.”
Those links were only active for a few hours, as the office later posted that the documents would be made available through Freedom of Information Act requests.
Towns has said posting the documents online was out of frustration that Williams County Job and Family Services and the county prosecutor’s office has declined to investigate allegations of child abuse, including a May 2012 incident in which a Bryan City Schools middle school art teacher showed sex toys to two minor female students at her home.
Fred Lord, director of Williams County Job and Family Services, told The Bryan Times June 21 that that in the incidents in question, his office followed proper procedures “to the letter.”
Towns’ case is set for a pretrial hearing Aug. 20 in front of Judge S. Dwight Osterud, a retired judge from Perrysburg, who was appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court when Bryan Municipal Court Judge Kent North recused himself to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.