Pre-trial held behind closed doors

By Tom Corrigan - [email protected]

The first pretrial hearing for a Lucasville man, William Michael Basham, charged with 15 counts of sexual abuse up to and including rape and all involving female inmates of the STAR correctional facility in Franklin Furnace, was held Wednesday in front of Scioto County Court of Common Pleas Judge Howard Harcha.

However, Wednesday’s pretrial hearing was held behind closed doors, with officials blocking entry by the public including the Daily Times.

Officials released no details from the hearing.

According to a voicemail message left to the Daily Times by Scioto County Prosecutor Shane Tieman, the public or private nature of pretrial hearings depends upon the situation. The Times has sat through Scioto County pre-trials previously and in fact did so on Wednesday in the notorious murder case against the parents of infant Dylan Groves.

Tieman said in the Basham case, the initial pretrial consisted entirely of a private conference between attorneys for both sides held in Harcha’s chambers. He said even the defendant was not present for the proceedings.

“It is not subject to an open meeting or open records act or anything like that,” Tieman said. 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.

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.

According to Basham’s indictment, the alleged abuse began as early as November of last year. 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 as of earlier this week, housed 287 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,” arguing he had seen no similar happenings at the detention facility during his 16 years of employment at STAR.

In the time since an initial story regarding Basham which ran earlier this week, the Daily Times received approximately five or six phone calls and emails from persons claiming to be current or former STAR employees, all alleging the allegations brought against Basham are not unique. Most of those claiming knowledge of situations at STAR requested they remain anonymous and at least one person ultimately chose not to speak to the paper for the record for fear of being recognized. One email came complete with the name of someone claiming to be a former STAR employee having knowledge of improper contact between facility workers and inmates. However, the Times was unable to verify the person was in fact a former worker and chose not to use the person’s comments.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol investigative unit in Jackson did not respond to requests for comment regarding Basham and its investigation. According to the website of the Common Pleas court, Basham’s attorney already has begun filing routine motions in the case, such as requests for discovery and preservation of evidence held by the prosecution. As of Friday, the court website listed no further court dates for Basham.

By Tom Corrigan

[email protected]

Reach Tom Corrigan at (740) 370-0715. © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.

Reach Tom Corrigan at (740) 370-0715. © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.