Former Delaware City Municipal Court Judge Michael C. Hoague has been sentenced to five years of community control and ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution to the State of Ohio after he was convicted of tampering with records and theft in November.
Hoague appeared in Delaware County Common Pleas Court on Thursday morning (Dec. 21) to be sentenced for one count of tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony, and one count of theft, a fifth-degree felony.
He delivered a brief statement before the sentence was pronounced and said Thursday was “the hardest day of my life.”
“My career, my life’s passion and my livelihood is finished,” Hoague said. “I should have been more careful… This unintentional oversight cost me everything. I’m responsible for my situation and I’m sorry.”
The charges against Hoague stem from a 2012 case in which he was hired by a family to defend their son who was charged with gross sexual imposition and rape in Delaware County Common Pleas Court. Hoague was later appointed to the case as a public defender and at the conclusion of the case Hoague filed paperwork asking to be paid as a public defender for his work on the case. On this paperwork, Hoague stated that he had not been compensated for his work on the case.
Assistant Ohio Attorney General Brad L. Tammaro said Thursday that Hoague was trying to get as much money as possible for the case and said Hoague took “extraordinary steps” to conceal what he had done. One of Hoague’s attorneys, Ian N. Friedman, said Hoague didn’t intentionally deceive anyone and said it was a simple mistake.
Before issuing the sentence, Visiting Judge James A. Brogan, a retired Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge, overruled a motion for acquittal filed by Hoague’s attorneys, but said the Court of Appeals may disagree with him.
Tammaro told Brogan he believed “some incarceration is warranted” and asked Brogan to impose a $10,000 fine for the tampering charge and $2,500 fine for the theft charge. Tammaro also asked Brogan to order Hoague to repay the state $5,000.
Friedman said incarceration in this case would be “overkill” and said a prison term “doesn’t serve any need.” Friedman said Hoague has been suspended by the Ohio Supreme Court and said he’s considering leaving Delaware, his hometown, because of the case and loss of livelihood.
Two local defense attorneys, Rick Reeder and Dominic Mango, spoke about Hoague’s character and told Brogan how much they had learned from Hoague.
Reeder said Hoague is a longtime colleague and friend and said this case highlights flaws in the legal appointment system.
“[Appointments] are fraught with unbelievable peril,” Reeder said. Reeder said this case sends a message to unwary attorneys that “you better take the blinders off and walk very, very carefully.”
Mango said he knows Hoague as “a man of integrity and a man of honesty” and said he has sought advice from Hoague on many occasions. He said on one occasion Hoague helped him defend a man in Marion County without asking to be paid for the case.
“No one has benefited our profession as much as Mike Hoague,” Mango said.
After hearing all the statements, Brogan sentenced Hoague to five years of community control, with a two-year prison sentence if he violates the terms of community control. He ordered that Hoague pay $5,000 in restitution to the State of Ohio and ordered that he pay $800 in court costs.
Friedman said Hoague would be unable to make a statement due to the potential for an appeal of the case.
“While we are grateful for the court’s thoughtful and fair sentence, the profession has lost a great warrior in Michael Hoague,” Friedman said. “He dedicated his life to this profession as a prosecutor, judge, and defense lawyer. He has helped countless lawyers and there will be a big void in the profession as the result of his absence.”
Friedman said they will be looking at “all available legal challenges ahead” and hoped that Hoague would one day be able to rejoin the profession.
“I respect the jury’s verdict, but I am unable to embrace the belief that Michael acted with ill will or intent,” Friedman said. “This was a mistake, one that could have simply been corrected with a phone call instead of prosecution and one now that he’ll unfortunately have to live with long into his future.”
Contact Glenn Battishill at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.