The second pretrial hearing for a Lucasville man, William Michael Basham, charged with 15 counts of sexual abuse up to and including three counts of rape, all involving female inmates of the STAR Community Justice Center in Franklin Furnace was held behind closed doors in the chambers of Scioto County Court of Common Pleas Judge Howard Harcha, according to Scioto County Prosecutor Shane Tieman.
“Nothing happened,” Tieman said, adding that defense attorneys still are processing large amounts of discovery in the case. According to the Common Pleas website, another pretrial is set for 10 a.m. Dec. 11.
Basham’s first pretrial in late August also was held behind closed doors, with no admittance to the public or the media. Tieman stated it is common practice in Scioto County to hold pretrial conferences in the judge’s chambers with the doors closed and the public not invited. He stated even Basham was not present at the first pretrial. It is not clear if the suspect was present for the second hearing.
“It is not subject to an open meeting or open records act or anything like that,” Tieman said after the August pretrial. He added had there been any reason for either side to go on record, officials would have moved the pretrial to an open, public court room.
Dominic A. Binkley, public information officer for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office said his office cannot provide legal opinions to media or private citizens. However, he added personnel could research the question of whether or not closed-door pretrial hearings are allowable in the state of Ohio.
“We are not aware of any law prohibiting a judge from doing that,” Binkley said.
Hired by the county, Basham worked at the state facility as a vocational plumbing instructor until February when a STAR official said he was escorted off the premises by law enforcement and has not returned.
Currently released on bond, Basham pleaded not guilty to all 15 counts against him at his arraignment Aug. 8. As previously reported, the charges against Basham range from nine counts of sexual imposition, a third-degree misdemeanor, as well as three counts of felony rape and other charges.
According to Basham’s indictment, the alleged abuse began as early as November. STAR Operations Director Steve McKnight said the Scioto County Career and Technical Center hired Basham to work at STAR and he passed a pre-employment background check. McKnight was unclear as to how long Basham taught at the detention facility, which serves 19 counties around southern Ohio, including Scioto County, and in August housed roughly 300 inmates.
McKnight added one of his jobs at the facility includes investigating any allegations of sexual abuse of inmates, investigations required by state law. He stated when he became convinced complaints regarding Basham might hold merit, he turned the issue over to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, which completes all investigations involving state detention facilities. McKnight termed any allegations against Basham “isolated incidents,” stating he had seen no similar happenings at the detention facility during his 16 years of employment at STAR.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol investigative unit in Jackson never has responded to requests for comment regarding Basham and their investigation. According to the website of the Common Pleas court, Basham’s attorney already been filing routine motions in the case, including, as already indicated, requests for discovery as well as preservation of evidence held by the prosecution. Prosecutors also have filed motions for discovery information from the defense team.
Reach Tom Corrigan at (740) 370-0715. © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.