A woman claims she was raped by a truck driver who held a gun to her head and threatened to kill her on the Ohio Turnpike in Hudson.
She escaped in Mahoning County and alerted Highway Patrol troopers, who arrested the man she says was responsible.
The case against Anthony Ingram, however, was dismissed — and he is now walking free.
The reason? Ingram’s 90-day speedy-trial deadline passed without the rape and kidnapping case being presented to a grand jury. Summit County Common Pleas Judge Christine Croce dismissed the case Nov. 14.
This rare occurrence — caused by a communication breakdown between the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office and the highway patrol — has prompted changes to prevent a similar situation from happening again.
“It’s almost like the perfect storm of how it could go wrong,” said Brad Gessner, chief counsel at the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office.
The prosecutor’s office and highway patrol are working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to see if federal charges can be brought against Ingram.
The dismissal, however, is concerning for leaders at the Rape Crisis Center of Summit and Medina Counties. They worry it sends the wrong message to victims, who often are reluctant to come forward. An estimated three out of four rapes go unreported.
“To hear that someone was brave enough to go through this process and that this is the outcome is very disheartening,” said Kelli Cary, interim director of the crisis center. “It reinforces the belief that they should not report — that maybe nothing will be done.”
The woman, who lives outside Ohio and is in her mid-20s, says she was raped on the Ohio Turnpike in Hudson on Aug. 10 by a truck driver who removed the battery from her phone and told her he’d bought her from another man for $500. She says the man held a gun to her head, threatened to kill her and then assaulted her, according to court records.
The woman reported the assault to the Ohio State Highway Patrol and troopers arrested Ingram, 32, of Travelers Rest, S.C., Aug. 11 and charged him with rape and kidnapping in Stow Municipal Court.
Through his attorney, Ingram has denied any wrongdoing.
Stow Judge Kim Hoover set Ingram’s bond at $50,000. Unable to post this bond, Ingram was held at the Summit County Jail.
Ingram waived a preliminary hearing in Stow court and his case was bound over to Summit County Common Pleas Court Aug. 17. The Stow clerk sent the records it had on the case to the Summit County clerk's office, which provided them to the prosecutor’s office.
After that, the breakdown began.
Because Ingram was in jail, prosecutors had 90 days to try his case, rather than the 270 days permitted for defendants who aren’t incarcerated.
The normal next step would be for Ingram’s case to be presented to a grand jury for him to be indicted or no-billed. That didn’t happen, though, and Ingram’s speedy-trial deadline passed Nov. 11.
Gessner and Noah Munyer, Ingram’s attorney, filed motions with Summit County Common Pleas Court Nov. 13, asking that Ingram’s case be dismissed.
Munyer asked that Ingram be released and his truck — where the assault allegedly occurred — and his belongings be returned.
Croce dismissed the charges against Ingram Nov. 14 without prejudice.
Gessner called this a “very rare and unique situation” involving a crime that occurred in three states and was investigated by several agencies. It was the first time this had happened in Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh's 18 years in office.
Gessner said Ingram began his crime in Indiana, traveled through Ohio and was arrested in Pennsylvania. He said the woman reported the crime in Mahoning County and it was investigated by the Warren post of the highway patrol. He said a trooper from the Cleveland highway patrol post filed the charges in Stow court.
Gessner said his office didn’t receive the investigative file from the patrol that was needed to present the case to the grand jury until two days after the speedy-trial deadline.
Before this, Gessner said a secretary who handles bind-overs reached out several times to the Cleveland patrol post about the file. Unbeknownst to her, the trooper she was contacting was on a medical leave and didn’t have the file, which was at the Warren post.
The highway patrol, in the meantime, had provided the investigative file to David Maistros, the Hudson prosecutor, at Ingram’s preliminary hearing in Stow, said Lt. Rob Sellers of the highway patrol.
Because the hearing was waived, Maistros said he gave the file to Munyer as discovery. He said law enforcement agencies provide investigative reports to the county prosecutor.
“That would have been done by the highway patrol or any other law enforcement agency that brings the case,” he said.
When troopers realized county prosecutors didn't have the file on Nov. 13, they immediately emailed it to them, Sellers said.
The prosecutor’s office and highway patrol met Thursday to discuss how to prevent a repeat of what happened with Ingram's case, including ways to improve communication between the agencies.
The agencies also discussed how to assist the U.S. Attorney’s Office on potential federal charges against Ingram. The U.S. Constitution requires that defendants be tried within a “reasonable amount of time,” and doesn’t provide a threshold like Ohio.
"The crime occurred in multiple jurisdictions, and we are seeking federal charges," Sellers said.
Prosecutors and highway patrol officials declined to discuss additional details about the incident, including whether additional charges could be filed and if other people could be charged. They said it is an ongoing investigation.
The prosecutor's office also had made several internal changes to avoid what happened with Ingram's case.
Previously, cases that were bound over weren’t entered into the prosecutor’s case-management system until the office received the investigative file from the law enforcement agency. A grand jury prosecutor will immediately put these cases into the system and will input additional information when it’s received. The cases will remain on the prosecutor’s screen until they are scheduled to be presented to the grand jury, which will help them better track speedy-trial deadlines.
Prosecutors retrained the bind-over secretary about speedy-trial deadlines and instructed her to alert prosecutors if she doesn’t get a timely response from law enforcement agencies about file requests.
The clock is ticking on federal charges being filed against Ingram.
At the request of federal prosecutors, Croce gave authorities 30 days before Ingram’s property will be released. That date will pass Dec. 16.
Munyer said Ingram claims he is innocent. He said Ingram says he was doing the woman a favor by giving her a ride and didn’t assault her.
“My client is very happy to be back home with his family after three months incarcerated while maintaining his innocence — and is looking forward to getting on with his life,” Munyer said.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at email@example.com, 330-996-3705 and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.