Ex-detective's trial postponed again

Cary Ashby • Oct 29, 2015 at 11:56 AM

The trial of former Huron County Sheriff's Detective Matthew S. Spencer has been pushed back again.

Spencer, 34, will face charges of theft in office, tampering with records, tampering with evidence, insurance fraud and falsification starting Jan. 14. The previous trial date was Oct. 15, and before that it had been scheduled for late July.

Greg Shell, Spencer's attorney, "asked for a continuance for medical reasons," Sheriff Richard Sutherland said.

Sutherland said he did not have any other details.

Shell and Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter were unavailable for comment Tuesday. Baxter's office is prosecuting the case to avoid a conflict of interest with Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler, who regularly handles cases for the sheriff's office.

The sheriff fired Spencer in August 2006 after putting him on paid administrative leave for about two weeks when the investigation of suspected wrongdoing began.

Spencer is accused of stealing between $10,000 and $15,000 from the sheriff's office evidence room which he oversaw. The former detective also reportedly made a false insurance claim about the theft of two firearms, a Fraternal Order of Police emblem, some golf clubs and seven personal checks from his personal vehicle.

The March 30 indictment lists the incidents occurring from July 2004 through the end of July 2006.

In late August, Baxter met with Shell in the judge's chambers in the Huron County Courthouse before what court records called a "final pretrial." However, the attorneys didn't appear in court immediately afterwards and left without giving a reason for the lack of a public hearing.

Chief Assistant Prosecutor Mary Ann Barylski, in early July, alluded to a pending plea agreement after meeting with Shell behind closed doors. There also was no hearing after that pretrial conference.

"We've talked a little bit about it, but I'd rather not get into it because I believe there are some major discovery issues to be resolved," Barylski said at the time.

Spencer, most recently of 420 High St., Willard, became a deputy in March 2000. He was the Greenwich police chief for about a month in May 2003 and resigned for personal reasons before rejoining the sheriff's office.

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