A Summit County judge on Friday found Brandi Tomko guilty of two low-level felonies and six misdemeanor counts for passing herself off as a veterinarian at a former Akron pet clinic.
Tomko’s attorney, John Greven, said she faces a maximum of 3½ years in prison when Summit County Common Pleas Judge Paul Gallagher imposes her sentence March 15.
Gallagher heard the case this week without a jury present.
Greven said there was a twofold reason for the bench trial: the plight of innocent animals, particularly a service dog, and the emotional impact such a case would have had on jurors.
“Absolutely. That’s why there was not a jury sitting there,” Greven, a former assistant Summit County prosecutor, said outside court. “All of our arguments were legal arguments and, frankly, when you have people caught up in emotion, sometimes they fail to even care about the legal arguments, so that’s why we tried it to the bench.”
Tomko, 36, initially had been charged in a 40-count indictment in connection with her work at Akron’s C&D Animal Hospital on Brittain Road from March to June in 2011. She is not a licensed veterinarian or a licensed vet tech and was prohibited under Ohio law from performing any vet services without a license in those fields, a state official testified this week.
Tomko’s trial began Tuesday after prosecutors had dismissed 27 of the original counts. When the state closed its case late Wednesday, Greven then argued there was insufficient evidence to proceed on any of the remaining 13 counts.
Gallagher dismissed five more counts, including the most serious charge of causing the death of a service dog belonging to a disabled Gulf War veteran, Robert McGee, 48, of Akron.
There was insufficient evidence to prove that bad medical advice, allegedly given by Tomko, caused the dog’s death some 10 months after McGee’s first visit to the C&D clinic, Gallagher ruled.
McGee, with his new service dog, Sam, at his side, wept openly moments after Gallagher’s decision and declined to comment afterward.
After Friday morning’s announcement of the verdicts, however, McGee emerged from court — again with Sam at his side — and said he felt “wonderful” about the convictions.
Greven had attempted to show that the former supervising veterinarian at the C&D clinic, Melissa M. Fisher, was the person who treated McGee’s deceased service dog, Ali.
“I’m very happy with the judge’s decision, pleasantly surprised. I came in expecting the worst, and was just pleasantly surprised,” McGee said.
“I would have liked to see her spend a lot of time in jail, but with everything that’s going on — a lot of misdemeanors — I don’t see a lot of jail time, but it would be nice.”
McGee said he still holds Tomko responsible for Ali’s death.
“It was her that was in there with me. She said her name was Brandi. It was not the other doctor that they tried to portray that saw me, actually,” he said.
McGee, who was wearing a blue U.S. Navy cap when he emerged from court, was holding a maroon box of ashes, with Ali’s name on it, as he spoke to several Cleveland television crews. He said Ali’s ashes had been with him “since the start of the trial.”
Fisher testified that conditions had deteriorated badly at C&D and that she had stopped being paid for her work. She said she quit Feb. 23, 2011 — close to seven weeks after Ali’s first visit.
In Tomko’s two felony convictions, one was a fourth-degree offense involving identity fraud for forging Fisher’s signature on an invoice. The other also was a fourth-degree offense, for forging Fisher’s signature on animal medications and pet supply orders.
Three of the misdemeanor guilty verdicts — theft of money paid for services, animal cruelty and practicing without a license — involved a 12-year-old dog owned by Kenny Reymann of Akron.
That dog, named Charlie, died of kidney dysfunction in April 2011, only days after Tomko, according to Reymann’s testimony, had treated the animal.
The other misdemeanor verdicts involved C&D services on a declawed cat and a dog.
Tomko, who lives in Medina County, also pleaded guilty — in a companion case unrelated to the animal cruelty charges — to one felony count of drug possession and one misdemeanor count of possession of drug instruments.
She was driving a car with two passengers and was arrested for possession of a pain pill without a prescription, according to case records.
In Gallagher’s sentencing decision, he will have discretion to levy various fines against Tomko in the C&D case, as well as fining her and suspending her driver’s license for a period in connection with her guilty pleas to the two drug charges in the unrelated case.
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or firstname.lastname@example.org.