Saturday, October 9, 2004

Drug case proceeds; judge had testified

By Janice Morse
Enquirer staff writer

LEBANON - A drug case in which an embattled Warren County judge testified on behalf of the nephew of his alleged mistress will go forward.

Common Pleas Judge Neal B. Bronson on Thursday ruled that the case of Christopher Young will proceed, despite Warren County Court Judge Dallas Powers' testimony that he had concerns about the legality of Young's arrest.

Powers is under investigation for misconduct, including five sexual harassment allegations, most centering around his alleged affair with Young's aunt, Libbie Gerondale, 34. She was working for Powers, 70, as a probation officer at the time of Young's July 17 arrest on drug charges. Young is accused of three felonies: illegal manufacture of drugs, illegal assembly of ingredients, and aggravated possession of drugs.

Powers and Gerondale both testified on behalf of Young two weeks ago.

Gerondale testified she did not ask Powers to give her nephew favorable treatment. She also testified that her relationship with Powers is no different than his relationships with other probation department employees.

Powers' and Gerondale's signatures appear on a document that set his bond low enough that he could post $500 and be released the day after he was arrested for an alleged illegal drug lab in his Harlan Township home.

Judge Bronson's ruling says testimony from Powers, Gerondale and Court Administrator Dick Kilburn convinced him that "jobs were not clearly defined" among county court staff, and that there was confusion over Kilburn's job responsibilities at the time he became involved in Young's arrest.

Bronson declared that Kilburn's involvement in the arrest was proper.

Under a 1967 Ohio Supreme Court ruling, Kilburn met the test for being a "de factoofficer" because he performed certain duties in the office, "has the reputation of being the officer he assumes to be, and is dealt with as such," Bronson wrote.

Young's trial is set for Oct. 25.


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