'It was self defense'

Cary Ashby • Mar 24, 2014 at 10:07 PM

Lora Garcia wasn't convicted of an assault, but she wants to tell her side of the story.

"Lies and accusations is what this is based on," the Plymouth woman said.

Garcia alleged two Huron County sheriff's deputies lied in various reports during their investigations. She said authorities denied her an interview, written statement and "photos of bruises on my legs."

"They denied me my rights so they could get it (the case) to the law director," Garcia said.

Also, she said the sheriff's office changed its policy on releasing the recording of her speaking to a deputy. The phone conversation happened during the investigation.

"It was no longer public after they said it was public," said Garcia, who accused Sgt. Todd Corbin of committing several "cover-ups and lies."

Garcia had called the sheriff's office and asked how she could obtain a copy of her phone conversation with a deputy. She was told she needed to submit a written request.

"A week later is when Patrick said it was no longer public," Garcia said, referring to Chief Deputy Ted Patrick.

Garcia said a call with Sgt. Tod Wagner lasted 28 minutes and was the time when she gave her statement of the facts, but the deputy's report indicates Garcia "immediately terminated the phone call."

Garcia was charged with felonious assault in connection with an Oct. 18 incident at the Willard American Legion. The case originally was filed in Norwalk Municipal Court, was presented to a Huron County grand jury only to have grand jurors transfer the case back to municipal court for possible prosecution on a misdemeanor assault charge.

Ultimately, Garcia was charged with two counts of assault. Both charges were in connection with incidents involving Jessica C. Blue, 27, of Willard and another woman. Authorities said Blue was being "loud and boisterous" and "somewhat combative."

"The tried to hand me a plea deal without hearing my side. Nobody wanted to hear anything from me," Garcia said.

The cases were dismissed March 5 -- one week before a Norwalk Municipal Court hearing was scheduled.

"They had insufficient evidence to convict me," Garcia said. "I had 20 witnesses against their two supposed victims."

"No one wanted to hear from me," she said again, but deputies reportedly didn't give her a reason.

Norwalk Assistant Law Director Scott Christophel outlined why he dismissed the two assault charges.

"The defendant provided some discovery to the state," he said, referring to about 18 witnesses for Garcia.

Christophel said 10 of the witnesses provided written statements in which they corroborated Garcia's story that Blue and the other woman instigated the situation. He said the witnesses reported the other women started the situation and Garcia was defending herself.

"Jessica Blue was highly intoxicated," Christophel said. "There was not enough evidence to convict (Garcia)."

The initial investigation

Sheriff's dispatchers received an anonymous 9-1-1 call at 12:18 a.m. Oct. 18 about two women accused of fighting at the Willard American Legion. Deputies responded to 3096 Ohio 99 and first contacted Blue.

"She was bleeding from the head and had a cut on her eye. She said she was hit by a beer bottle," Patrick told the Reflector soon after the incident. "She (Blue) was inebriated and somewhat combative."

The chief deputy said witnesses filled in some gaps for the suspected sequence of events and they reported there was an altercation between Blue and Garcia in which Garcia reportedly hit the other woman with a beer bottle.

"The altercation started over Miss Garcia's ex-boyfriend (whom) Miss Blue was showing some interest in," Patrick said.

Blue went to Fisher-Titus Medical Center for treatment of her injuries. She received 12 stitches to her face near her temple.

Garcia said Blue made up the allegations about the boyfriend and being hit with a beer bottle.

"Boyfriends didn't have anything to do with this. No boyfriends -- no beer bottles," Garcia said.

By the time deputies arrived, Garcia had left the American Legion.

Three days after the incident, prosecutors filed a felonious assault charge against Garcia. Judge Erie Weisenburger issued a warrant for her arrest.

Garcia was in Port Clinton on business when a deputy came to her house the first time. When a deputy arrived later, she was sleeping when her daughter answered the door.

"They made it look like I was running," Garcia said.

Sgt. Wagner is quoted in a report saying the only way to interview Garcia was by issuing an arrest warrant.

Garcia turned herself into the sheriff's office at 11:06 a.m. Oct. 23. She was transported to the Huron County Jail, where she was released upon posting a $20,000 bond.

While the case was pending, Garcia was prohibited from having any direct or indirect association with Blue.

"She convinced the cops she needed a protection order," Garcia said.

Soon after the incident, she said Blue sent her "30 separate texts" which reportedly were threatening.

"She was just harassing me," Garcia added.

'Self defense': Defendant's POV

Garcia was at the Willard American Legion with her two daughters, 18 and 23, and her niece Oct. 18.

"I avoided the girls all night. They were taunting me," Garcia said, referring to Blue and the other woman.

"I wasn't expecting any kind of fight. ... We tried to avoid them all night even though they were taunting me," Garcia added.

The first woman confronted Garcia when she was outside of the American Legion speaking to other people.

"She put her finger on my nose. I smacked her hand away," Garcia said. "She (then) ran inside the building. ... Everyone heard her screaming."

Blue then "came out screaming" while three men held the door closed to keep her inside, Garcia said, and she eventually pushed the door open.

"She was longing to get out," Garcia added. "She ran at me and hit me."

Garcia backed up twice when Blue reportedly tried to hit her. It was during the second attempt that Garcia took action.

"I immediately wrapped my hand around her hair and down she went. I held her there until she calmed down," Garcia said.

Garcia said she eventually let go of Blue once she stopped kicking and thrashing and Blue's boyfriend then grabbed her by the feet to a chainlink fence about 20 feet away.

"He tried to calm her down by smashing her in the face," Garcia said, referring to Blue's face hitting the fence.

Garcia suspected those are the injuries that resulted in her being charged with felonious assault.

"But the cops made it that way. They wanted it that way," she said.

"I had to go back inside. She (Blue) looked like someone murdered her; that's what witnesses said," Garcia said, adding that witnesses reported Blue had blood splattered on her face.

Garcia said if deputies had listened to her side of the story, they would have arrested Blue and the other Willard woman.

"There were no ramifications; it was self-defense," Garcia said.

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