Cincinnati Attorney Files Ohio Supreme Court Ethics Complaint Alleging Prosecutors Aren't Taking Her Rape Allegation Seriously

An attorney says an activist she represented in a First Amendment case raped her. She wanted a jury trial. But prosecutors, who have floated a possible plea deal, say her case isn't strong.

click to enlarge Hamilton County Courthouse - HAILEY BOLLINGER
Hailey Bollinger
Hamilton County Courthouse

A Cincinnati attorney who says she was raped by a former pro-bono client more than seven years ago filed an ethics complaint with the Ohio Supreme Court last week accusing a local prosecutor of not taking her allegations seriously. That complaint was first reported by The Cincinnati Enquirer.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters' office was originally handling the case but named Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser's office special prosecutor on the matter in May. 

Attorney Jennifer Kinsley says both have dropped the ball on the case due to a plea deal that has been offered to her alleged rapist. Both Deters and Gmoser strongly dispute that, however. Deters says two female prosecutors working on Kinsley's case found that it wasn't strong, while Gmoser told The Enquirer that Kinsley "has a perceptual defect,” and "doesn't know her ass from a hole in the ground." Both stand by their offices' treatment of the case and say no final decisions have been made about plea deals.

Kinsely is seeking to get Gmoser's office removed from her case. 

Kinsley says activist Aaron Roco raped her in April 2012 after inviting her over to his house for dinner, ostensibly to thank her for winning a First Amendment case related to Roco's activism with Occupy Cincinnati in 2011. While at his house, Kinsley says in her complaint that the two drank wine and kissed, but that then Roco "forced Kinsley to have sex with him in vulgar and disgusting ways," slammed her into a wall, pinned her down, strangled her and covered her mouth. 

According to Kinsley, Roco then blocked her from leaving his house until the next morning. Kinsley says she went immediately to University of Cincinnati Hospital after leaving his house and says medical examinations performed there support her story. 

Roco has denied the allegations. He faces similar allegations from another woman, according to Kinsley's filing, and was recently convicted on a separate domestic violence charge for punching a former girlfriend. 

Kinsley waited until 2018 to press charges against Roco, she says mostly she did not want to damage her career as a criminal defense attorney. A job as a professor at Northern Kentucky University's Chase School of Law made her feel able to pursue the allegations. A Hamilton County grand jury indicted Roco in January this year. 

Deters says Kinsley should not have socialized with Roco in the first place.

"She decided to celebrate with her client, to fraternize with her client," Deters told Bill Cunningham on Cunningham's 700WLW radio show yesterday. "She said she had voluntarily consented to making out with him, brought a bottle of wine and things of that nature. She reported it to law enforcement seven years later. Now, I'm going to be the last person to criticize someone for failure to report right away. It happens. My problem is, as an officer of the court, you shouldn't be fraternizing with your clients."

Kinsley sparred with Deters publicly on Twitter this spring about an unrelated matter and disagreed with a proposal from prosecutors that would have had Roco pleading to the lesser charge of sexual battery and facing six months in jail, with a requirement that he register as a sex offender. Kinsley wanted a jury trial, even writing Hamilton County Judge Patrick Dinkelacker a letter urging him to reject the plea deal.

That letter was "unethical," Deters says. Dinkelacker then removed himself from the case.

Citing those factors, Deters turned the case over to Gmoser's office as a special prosecutor. 

"Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph ('Joe') Deters has abdicated his statutory obligation to prosecute a dangerous man currently under indictment for multiple counts of rape and has instead outsourced his duties to the Butler County Prosecutor without following the required procedures for the appointment of special prosecutors," Kinsley wrote in her complaint. "The Butler County Prosecutor has in turn assumed prosecutorial authority over a case which was indicted and charged in Hamilton County without judicial appointment."

Kinsley has also dinged Deters for a $2,500 campaign contribution he received earlier this year from Roco's attorney, supporter R. Scott Croswell. 

"Both prosecutors have agreed to an unprecedented plea bargain with an indicted rapist that ironically coincided with a major campaign contribution from defense counsel," Kinsley wrote in her complaint. "This plea was negotiated and agreed to without Kinsley’s consent and over her consistent objection."

Deters and Croswell both deny politics and the contribution played any role in the plea deal.

"She's got some issues, I'll tell you that, pal," Deters told Cunningham. "She clearly doesn't know much." 

Formal response from both Gmoser and Deters is due to the Ohio Supreme Court Sept. 20. After that, Kinsley will have until Sept. 24 to respond to their filings. A hearing is scheduled Oct. 4.

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