STOW — City Councilman Bob Adaska allegedly did something to merit a charge of disorderly conduct, but a magistrate ruled Monday morning that former Stow Mayor Sara Kline’s complaint against him didn’t specifically accuse him of having committed a crime.
Adaska was in Stow Municipal Court Monday morning for the start of his trial. Adaska was charged with the minor misdemeanor after Kline accused him of pushing her during an altercation at the March 22 City Council meeting. Adaska has denied pushing Kline.
After the trial started with Kline giving her testimony, Magistrate John Clark dismissed the case after agreeing with defense attorney George Keith’s argument that the complaint made against Adaska did not contain language that sufficiently described a criminal offense.
Both Adaska and Kline declined to comment after Clark’s ruling.
Special Prosecutor Michelle Banbury said "we probably aren’t going to be able to re-file," referring to the "double jeopardy" Constitutional protection that prevents defendants from being tried twice for the same offense.
"I thought Mrs. Kline’s testimony was really good," said Banbury. "I am going to do some research on the issue and we’ll go from there."
She noted "specific elements of the offense" were not in the complaint, such as "causing annoyance and alarm."
Banbury said she believed they had "fixed" the language "sufficiently, but we hadn’t."
After Kline testified that Adaska "pushed me on my left forearm" after the Council meeting on March 22, defense attorney George Keith asked to approach the bench and then Clark put the court into recess for several minutes.
With court back in session, the attorneys presented their arguments on the content of the complaint.
"The complaint does not outline the essential elements of the offense," said Keith, noting the complaint does not include language that accuses Adaska of having criminal intent.
In response, Banbury told Clark she would need time to research the case law provided by Keith to support his argument and noted she felt the complaint had been discussed before the proceeding began. Prior to the start of the trial, Banbury said she had clarified the specific subsection of state law on disorderly conduct that was being used in this case. She requested that the court continue with the trial.
Banbury made a motion to amend the complaint, but Keith stated the prosecution should not have that right, noting it had been filed on April 3 — giving prosecutors several weeks to research the issue.
Clark said the court did not have jurisdiction "if it’s not a validly filed complaint.
"Looking at this complaint, none of the elements of the offense are alleged."
Clark added he was "not inclined" to allow the complaint to be amended on the day of the trial.
"I don’t believe the court has subject matter jurisdiction," concluded Clark. "I’m going to dismiss it for today."
Clark said he would not say whether the case was dismissed with prejudice, noting that issue would be addressed in the future. He said he would do a written entry so attorneys can respond to his decision.
In her testimony, Kline said she was "upset" with comments Adaska had made on March 22, when he alleged she had removed the Stow Kids Playground equipment without giving notice to Council. She said that wasn’t true and that she had notified Council about the issue.
After the meeting, Kline testified she walked over to Adaska and said "Don’t lie about me ever again," and then walked away. Kline said as she walked away, she heard Adaska say something and turned around. Kline testified that Adaska told her to "go to hell," and "pushed me on my left forearm."
Kline said she was not injured. The case was dismissed before Adaska had a chance to testify.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.