Accused spitting inmate arraigned

Cary Ashby • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:05 PM

Defense attorney David Longo heatedly prohibited his client from explaining any of his third-degree felony charges.

Robert J. Criss, 48, of 590 Emerald St., Willard, faces a Feb. 28 trial on five counts of harassment by an inmate. He pleaded innocent Monday to the Dec. 4 incidents at the Huron County Jail. Criss is accused of trying to spit on corrections officers on five different times.

"Can I explain some of those charges?," Criss asked Huron County Common Pleas Judge Jim Conway.

Longo quickly told him Monday's arraignment wasn't the proper time to do so.

"If they had treated you fairly, this wouldn't have happened in the first place," the attorney said loudly.

"And that's enough from you as well, Mr. Longo," Conway said.

Sgt. Larry Coleman, who witnessed one spitting incident by camera, has said the first one happened when Criss was being searched a standard jail procedure. Criss is accused of attempting to spit on other officers about 2 1/2 hours after he was brought into the booking area.

Criss' indictment, filed Friday, indicates he committed the offenses "with the knowledge that (he) is a carrier of a hepatitis virus."

"As far as I know, nobody was hit," Coleman said in December.

Before Criss was booked, deputies responded to a disturbance in the lobby of the sheriff's office involving Criss. He was trying to get some medication with a "ripped off" label a deputy earlier had confiscated from his wife, a prosecutor said.

Criss is accused of getting verbally disruptive in the lobby and was asked to leave, but he reportedly continued to be disorderly. He was charged with menacing, resisting arrest and persistent disorderly conduct before being taken to jail.

Police had confiscated his wife's medication from her vehicle when she was being "picked up" on a warrant stemming from making a false report during an assault investigation, Longo told the court Monday.

Criss' estranged wife had wrongfully accused him of felonious assault, Longo said, but she later recanted her story. The attorney said the allegation was ridiculous because Criss was using a cane at the time.

On Sept. 25, a West Emerald Street, Willard, resident accused Criss of attempting to stab her and her mother when the caller was retrieving her belongings, police said.

Longo recommended his client be released on a written promise to return to court because Criss "has spinal cancer." He described the man's health as "somewhere between bad and pathetic."

"This is a man who couldn't knock (out) the wind with a sledgehammer," Longo said.

The attorney went on to accuse corrections officers of not providing his client with the proper medication. Criss has been in a holding cell for the last month, said Longo, who considers his client a liability for the county jail since he can't be housed with the general population.

Sgt. Wade Mollison confirmed the prisoner was "up here in booking" as of Monday afternoon, but couldn't elaborate because of federal privacy laws. Criss was being held in the medical wing of the jail soon after the spitting incidents.

Conway ruled Criss must post 10 percent of $10,000 before being released. Huron County Assistant Prosecutor Richard Woodruff had recommended a $25,000 bond, citing "a lengthy criminal history, going back 30 years."

Longo called the charges, including robbery and escape, "ancient."

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