SIDNEY — Former local attorney Christopher Bucio has been released from community control sanctions following a hearing in Shelby County Common Pleas Court, Friday.
In ordering the sanctions be dropped, the visiting judge said Bucio had been “more than adequately punished” for his probation infractions.
The case involved Bucio’s conviction regarding the sale of land in exchange for professional services.
Retired Judge J. Timothy Campbell, of Greene County, said Friday the sanctions would not be dropped until the ruling was officially filed in the Shelby County Clerk of Courts office. As of 5 p.m. Friday, the court papers had not yet been posted online.
On Friday, Bucio, 39, of Sidney, and his attorney, David C. Greer, of Dayton, along with Matthew Donahue, special prosecutor from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, and several witnesses were on hand.
Campbell said court records and testimony indicated Bucio had complied with all the rules, noting he had been jailed for an in-house sanction that was never filed as a violation. Stating he felt Bucio has been fully rehabilitated and that keeping him under the sanctions provided “no further benefit” to anyone involved, the judge handed down his ruling.
After the meeting, Bucio said he was undecided about whether he would seek reinstatement as an attorney and that he was just going to take it “one day at a time” for now.
Prosecution witness Dustin Snow, of the Shelby County Adult Probation Department, said that Bucio had indeed rehabilitated and that the lone purpose of keeping him on community control would be “purely punitive.”
However, Snow had recommended that Bucio be held to the rules for another year because the departmental precedent was a minimum of two years. He felt it would be unfair to others on probation who couldn’t afford an attorney to seek removal.
Snow said Bucio had three items in his case that resulted in two warnings and an in-house infraction. He had failed to pay $10 for a drug test on time; he spoke extensively to a Sidney Police officer when police were called to a soccer team party that had alcohol that he had permission to attend; and, for failing to notify the probation department when a malfunctioning furnace during cold weather forced them to a local hotel.
According to online court records, on Jan. 19, 2018, Bucio filed the affidavit requesting his early release based on the original plea agreement. The filing included details of his jailing involving a questionable ruling made by Shelby County Chief Adult Probation Officer Ruth Cooper.
The records indicate Bucio and his family attended his daughter’s swim meet at the Sidney-Shelby County YMCA on Nov. 18, 2017. When they returned home that evening, the heating unit in their home had malfunctioned and was unable to be fixed until the following day.
Bucio, his wife, and three minor children checked into a local hotel due to the lack of heat. He admitted not calling his probation officer due to an “unexpected and stressful emergency on a Saturday night.”
Bucio stated he received a warning from Snow for not informing authorities of his stay away from his residence. He claimed Cooper would soon overturn the warning and order Snow to give him an in-house infraction.
Based on departmental rules, the curfew debacle resulted in a mandatory 48-hour incarceration in the county jail. On Saturday, Jan. 6, Bucio voluntarily reported to the jail around 6 p.m. to serve his sentence. He was released early in the day of Jan. 8.
Who made the call?
On the stand Friday, Snow testified that it was he, not Cooper, who made the decision to change the ruling to stay consistent with office policy regarding curfew violations. Snow said that he was questioned by Cooper, saying she told him “she would stand behind me on whatever was decided.”
Snow commented that Bucio had several options the night of the curfew problem, including calling his officer, calling the sheriff’s office or by contacting him through e-mail. He also claimed Bucio did not indicate to the probation officer working as a security officer of his intent to stay at the hotel.
When Bucio took the stand, he affirmed that he stood by the facts stated in his filing as accurate. He claimed he was unaware of all the options and did tell the security officer they were staying overnight.
He also stated that Friday was the first time he heard the soccer party incident was an infraction. He also noted information regarding the $10 late payment had, ironically, come on the same day that he had paid some $4,400 to the department towards his fine.
Despite the conflicting testimony, Bucio praised Snow as his probation officer. He said Snow has never treated him unfairly and admitted that he did not contact Snow on the night in question.
He said Snow encouraged him to spend more time with his family, coach local youth sports and remain active in church. Bucio said Snow would grant him requests that dealt with improving his lifestyle in these manners, he emphasized.
Several character witnesses spoke about Bucio’s ego-driven attitude before the court case. They all told of his change regarding his attitude, faith and focus on his family. They included his sister, Nicole Woodruff, of Troy; Urbana attorney Ryan Reed; Wright State University Professor Thomas Looker; and co-worker, Brandi Cupp.
According to court records, on Aug. 18, 2010, Linda Heucker, of Sidney, was arrested on charges of cultivation of marijuana, a second-degree felony, and endangering children, a third-degree felony. Lacking available funds, Heucker employed Bucio in an agreement to have a 22-acre tract of farmland serve as financial backing to hire him and his firm, Roberts, Kelly and Bucio LLP.
Eventually, the land was deeded to the firm and sold for $135,000, all of which was retained by the law firm. The court ordered the money be returned to Heucker. It has been paid in full.
On Nov. 30, 2016, Bucio pleaded guilty to a negotiated charge of unauthorized use of property, a fourth-degree felony. He was facing the possibility of a maximum of 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.
On Jan. 20, 2017, Bucio was sentenced to a maximum of five years community control through the Shelby County Adult Probation Department.
Part of the plea agreement stated that if Bucio conducted himself as instructed by probation officers and paid all fines, court costs and fees, the court would consider his early release from community control after one year of his sentencing date.
In early January 2017, Bucio was suspended from practicing law for an interim period. This included a two-year suspension with 12 months stayed. However, on Nov. 29, 2017, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled he was to be indefinitely suspended. The ruling meant Bucio could not seek reinstatement until Nov. 30, 2019.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.