Tuesday, February 09, 1999

Juror job flap prompts probe


After tax verdict, AK Steel searches employee's car

BY BEN L. KAUFMAN
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The U.S. attorney has been asked to investigate whether a former juror has become the victim of retaliation for convicting three suburban Cincinnati men on tax charges.

        U.S. District Judge Herman J. Weber sought the probe on Monday after George Blanton of the Ironton, Ohio, area complained that he was hassled after returning to work.

        “We do our duty and then this ... happens,” Mr. Blanton said after calling Judge Weber's case manager. “I don't like it.”

        Mr. Blanton was one of 12 jurors who convicted Edgar Francis Bradley and his sons, Edgar Francis Bradley II and Roy Claudius Bradley, last week.

        Jurors said the Bradleys failed to file their returns and conspired to hide their income and assets in a web of trusts and bank accounts.

        “I sat there for five weeks, and I saw justice and did justice,” Mr. Blanton said. “And now I'm being harassed by something or somebody.”

        Thursday, Mr. Blanton returned to AK Steel in Ashland, Ky., where he worked in maintenance for 341/2 years.

        Mr. Blanton said security asked his permission to search his car and found beer in a cooler.

        When AK Steel required him to undergo breath and urine tests, “I done figured out that I wasn't going back on the job that day.”

        Neither test found alcohol nor drugs, Mr. Blanton said, but security escorted him to his car and told him to stay away until further notice.

        Mr. Blanton said a letter from AK Steel confirmed that he was suspended for five days and was to be fired for possession of alcohol on company property.

        “They single one person out the very next day after he gets off jury duty,” he said Monday.

        Neither officials in Ashland nor company spokesman Alan McCoy in Middletown would comment on Mr. Blanton's suspicions or the judge's request for an investigation.

        A spokesman for the U.S. attorney said it would be inappropriate to comment on the request for an investiga tion.

        Intimidating or interfering with federal jurors — even after a verdict — can be a federal crime.

        There is also a civil statute that prohibits an employer from penalizing anyone on account of their jury service.

        Federal trials in Cincinnati draw jurors from throughout southern Ohio. Those who live as far as Ironton stay overnight in Cincinnati at taxpayer expense. Mr. Blanton objected to the cost of beer at the hotel bar and brought his own in a small cooler.

        Mr. Blanton said he hadn't cleaned out his car before returning to work and didn't think the beer violated AK Steel policy because the company parking lot was outside the gate.

        The three Bradleys are free on bond until sentencing May 14.

       



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