Cincinnati Councilman Wendell Young Will Go to Trial on December 6 for Tampering with Records

The indicted Cincinnati City Council member will continue to serve while awaiting trial.

Jun 23, 2021 at 11:18 am
Cincinnati City Council member Wendel Young - Image: WLWT video still
Image: WLWT video still
Cincinnati City Council member Wendel Young

Cincinnati City Council member Wendell Young will face a jury later this year.

The councilman's trial is set for Dec. 6, Hamilton County Commons Pleas Court Judge Robert Ruehlman declared during a hearing Tuesday. Young faces charges of tampering with evidence records during a 2018 texting scandal.

In April, Young pleaded not guilty when he was federally indicted.

Young remains on Cincinnati City Council after facing two suspension attempts. In May, Cincinnati City Council member Betsy Sundermann filed paperwork to remove Young from his seat immediately after residents voted on an anti-corruption measure during the primary election. According to the measure, which gives council the right to suspend a member who is under felony indictment, seven council members must agree for a suspension to go through. Six members voted for suspension, but the attempt failed when two members abstained.

Earlier this month, the Ohio Supreme Court also declined to suspend Young from Cincinnati City Council, with a panel of three judges saying that Young's current performance on the council would not be affected as he awaits trial.

"The Special Commission finds that the felony charge against Mr. Young involves alleged conduct that occurred approximately three years ago and that has been public knowledge for most of that time, seemingly without adverse effect on the functioning of the office or the rights and interests of the public," the panel had said.

The charges against Young are part of a larger scandal that enveloped the city in recent years. The carousel of corruption cases began when council member Tamaya Dennard was indicted on federal bribery charges related to her solicitation of $15,000 from a local attorney. Dennard resigned in March 2020, pleaded guilty that June, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Council member Jeff Pastor was charged in November 2020 on 10 federal counts of bribery, extortion, money laundering and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

That same month, council member P.G. Sittenfeld was arrested on a six-count indictment related to a scheme that allegedly traded cash for votes relating to the development of the former Convention Place Mall.

Young's charges are the result of the "Gang of Five" 2018 texting scandal.

Young allegedly destroyed text messages that were considered evidence for a lawsuit that he was part of. As CityBeat previously reported, in 2018, conservative activist Mark Miller and his attorney Brian Shrive, both connected to the conservative group Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), filed a lawsuit seeking private texts exchanged among Cincinnati City Council members Young, Dennard, Sittenfeld, Chris Seelbach and Greg Landsman. In those, the group discussed the impending ouster of then-Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black by Mayor John Cranley, as well as other city business.

Miller and Shrive contended that the texts between the five council members represented a violation of open meetings laws. Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Ruehlman ruled that the city must release all texts sent by any of the five council members during the time period in question.

After Black's departure, a series of appeals and an admission from the City of Cincinnati that it had, indeed, violated open meetings laws, some of the messages, including emails, were released.

But not all of them. Some of Young's messages were among those that were missing or destroyed. One of them reportedly was, "Amen! We're the new gang of five."

Earlier this year, Young had filed paperwork with the Hamilton County Board of Elections to add his name to the May 4 primary ballot in his run for mayor, but the BOE found that Young did not have the required number of valid signatures.