Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader will be allowed to remain free after pleading not guilty Tuesday to 16 charges, including theft in office and tampering with evidence.
A Pike County grand jury indicted Reader on the charges Friday. He faces seven charges of conflict of interest, four charges of theft in office, two charges of theft, and one charge each of tampering with evidence, tampering with records, and securing writings by deception.
Special judge Chris Martin accepted a recommendation from attorneys with the Ohio Auditor’s Office that Reader be issued a recognizance bond, meaning he didn’t need to pay money to post bail. Martin allowed the recognizance bond on the conditions that Reader not contact any witnesses in the case, turn in his keys to the Sheriff’s Office, and not comment about the case on social media.
“This has been a long and intensive investigation with unfortunate and very serious results," Ohio Auditor Keith Faber wrote in a press release last week. "It is our job to hold public officials accountable and root out fraud, waste, and abuse in our communities. We do not take these charges lightly and recognize that no one is above the law."
The indictment says Reader took advantage of an impounded Nissan Versa and Chevy Silverado. He’s also accused of taking out loans from his employees and a local vendor doing business with the Sheriff’s Office.
The most severe charges are two third-degree felonies for tampering with evidence and records—both carry jail sentences up to three years.
In December, the Auditor announced it received an anonymous complaint accusing Reader of taking money seized during a drug investigation and using it to fuel a gambling addiction.
"Reader keeps the cash confiscated on drug cases in a small safe in his office that only he has access to," the complaint read.
Reader made worldwide headlines as he helped lead a state investigation into the Pike County murders of eight members of the Rhoden family in 2016. A grand jury indicted four members of the Wagner family on aggravated murder charges.
Attorney General Dave Yost insisted Reader’s case won’t hamper the murder trial since he’s “not the primary witness for any issue of fact or law.” Yost has since pushed Reader to resign.
“Sheriff Reader violated the public’s trust when he used his office to benefit himself rather than the public,” Yost said in a press release Tuesday. “Reader has been credibly accused and indicted. Under these circumstances, I don’t see how he can be an effective law enforcement officer.”
Derek Myers, a spokesman for the Sheriff, said Tuesday that he has no plans to resign.
"It’s not causing a distraction to the operations of the office of Sheriff," Myers said. "Investigations are still on-going like normal."
The state's petition to have Reader removed from office now sits with the Ohio Supreme Court. If the court opts to start the removal process, it would convene a panel of retired judges to oversee proceedings and make a determination, which Reader could then appeal.