Sutherland to Spencer: 'My only question is why'

Jury selection in the criminal trial of a fired Huron County sheriff's detective was supposed to start this morning. Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter said he had subpoenaed 15 to 20 witnesses. Instead, Matthew S. Spencer, 34, most recently of 420 High St., Willard, entered a last-minute plea late Friday afternoon.
Cary Ashby
Jul 25, 2010

Jury selection in the criminal trial of a fired Huron County sheriff's detective was supposed to start this morning. Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter said he had subpoenaed 15 to 20 witnesses.

Instead, Matthew S. Spencer, 34, most recently of 420 High St., Willard, entered a last-minute plea late Friday afternoon.

Spencer, who remains free on bond, was charged with theft in office, tampering with records, tampering with evidence, insurance fraud and falsification. The charges stem from incidents from July 2004 through the end of July 2006. He oversaw the evidence room until Sheriff Richard Sutherland fired him in August 2006 after an investigation of suspected wrongdoing began.

Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter said Spencer was convicted of all eight charges on an "Alford plea." Baxter described the plea as the equivalent of a "no contest" plea, in which there is no admission to wrongdoing, but there is "overwhelming evidence" if the case had gone to trial.

"There was not one charge or count dismissed or reduced," Baxter said about Spencer's plea.

Baxter said Spencer stole between $10,000 and $11,000 from the evidence room. The prosecutor also mentioned there was "several hundred dollars" missing from the money for impounded vehicles.

Investigators have said the ex-detective 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.

Sutherland, when asked for his reaction to the plea, said he was happy with Spencer's choice "to get it over and done with." Since the first hearing, the sheriff had heard there may be a possible plea deal.

"It's been a long time. It took too long. You've just got to wait your turn," he said.

Spencer waived the right for Baxter to read the factual basis of the conviction, a standard court procedure.

"We were prepared to do (so), but it was not necessary," Baxter said.

The prosecutor believes Spencer took responsibility for his actions by pleading to the indictment. The Reflector asked Baxter if he thought the plea was the result of feeling pressure from the trial.

"You'd have to ask Mr. (Greg) Shell about that," Baxter said. "Obviously, he was looking out for his client's best interests."

Shell, Spencer's lawyer, declined to comment on the case Friday. He couldn't be reached for an interview this morning.

As part of the plea agreement, Baxter said he agreed to take no position on a possible sentence during the March 10 hearing.

"We leave it up to the discretion of the court," he added.

About July 2006, Sutherland appointed Sgt. Mike Martz to be in charge of the evidence room. Chief Deputy Col. Bob Sutherland, the sheriff's twin brother, does a random audit each month. The chief deputy pulls a case and asks Martz to present him with the respective evidence.

When Martz was reorganizing the room in mid-November, he discovered a case file was missing as was some money, Baxter said. The prosecutor said the money already had been accounted for and investigators later determined the case file had been "placed in another bin."

Baxter also said Richard Sutherland maintained the integrity of the investigation by first turning it over to prosecutors and then an outside agency, the Ohio Bureau of Identification and Investigation.

"As soon as this thing broke, he did the right thing," Baxter said.

Sutherland briefly reflected on his former employee this morning. Spencer 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.

"Matt did a great job when he first (started). My only question is why. We still don't have that answer," Sutherland said.

Comments

Give.Sutherland...

for his usual outstanding performance...he and his brother and their buddies all have had their hands in the pot...and all had access to the evidence room...but of course there is only one fall guy...it will be nice next year to see him and all his relatives/friends/good old boys out of the Sheriff's Office.

hometownboy (An...

Hey Give - Why don't you accuse the prosecutor and the judge while you are at it??? YOU ARE AN IDIOT!!!!!!!!

WakeUp (Anonymous)

to: hometownboy....get a clue, ask HCSO employees (not brother Bob or stepbaby Bracken or the numerous relatives) about the Sutherlands...the ppl that work with the Sutherlands know what has been going on...you either believe the phony Sutherland act or you are one of the good old boys....whether you like it or not, the Sutherland kingdom is almost over :)

hometownboy (An...

Thats fine by me - why should they want to risk their lives to protect you as a citizen anyway! And as i stated before - talk is cheap - especially for ppl like u.

Norwalk My Spac...

Hey Dane Howard has been trying to get in touch with young people on My Space,( of course over 18) of course they hit not accepted. That was posted on the blog about the Greenwich dealership.

Yes (Anonymous)

I got one less than 1 week ago. Can we say denied? It had his picture on it. I clicked denied without reading his profile too bad I wanted to see what he had to say about himself and couldn't find it later. LOL!

re: wakeup (Ano...

you must be related to smutherland, he protects himself and his place in the buffee line; thats it: He has to be the worse sheriff in the history of ohio and sheriffs are the worse law enforcment in ohio. that kinda means his worthlessness gets multiplied to the second power

joy (Anonymous)

no sh*t those lazy asses sit in the sherrif dept. stealing sh*t while herion is being given to 12 year old kids and the guy gets off every time he gets aressted I don't care if he is a nark he is ruioning plps life when you are caught 100 times U should aventiual go to jail.

what a joke (An...

i have to agree with most of you sutherland is a lying snake and the good old boy days are finally gonna come to an end thank god. to bad they didn't end in the last election.

leave them alon...

then they won't bother the junkies, once they all overdose, the problem will be gone.

re: joy (Anonymous)

Oh, honey, take a class, get an education. The spelling errors in these comment section...how can anyone take any of that mis-spelled crap seriously?

It's gonna suck...

... when the integrity Sheriff Sutherland has brought to Huron County goes right out the door when he leaves office. Hopefully Howard or Bracken can have half the integrity Sutherland has had.

what a joke (An...

Inegrity? Are you kidding me? You must be related to Sutherland. Anyone who does a little bit a homework or knows a sheriff deputy can tell you what kind of integrity the sheriff really has.

Re: what a joke...

"Anyone who does a little bit a homework or knows a sheriff deputy can tell you what kind of integrity the sheriff really has. "

So why don't you do a little bit of homework then...

what a joke (An...

Your comment makes no senese. Obviously i've done my homework or I wouldn't have posted that comment

swiss family......

i can understand Mr Sutherlands feeling of being betrayed..it is a terrible feeling to know that the people that you work with everyday, and trust like your own brother, has gone behind your back and found that"loophole" that gives them the oppertunity to rob from you.. i was in a similar situation, and it was a feeling that can't be explained.. it is the ultimate betrayal.. what this guy has done to the ofice and staff will take years to reinstill

to swiss (Anonymous)

What does 'oppertunity' and 'ofice' mean?

..gas guzzler (...

we need to watch the gas station owners again , they are over charging us at the pumps.. i just returned from not too far out of town, and the price of gas was $2.77 but in Norwalk.. the price is $2.96 per gallon... why are we being over charged again??

My question is ...

why was he the only one in charge of this evidence room? Seems to me there should be more than one person to handle this large responsibility and properly organize this room. I believe things would not come up missing if there were two people in charge of it.

to; my question...

it sounds like it was a plan, you notice he did not have the position that long. Does it state anywhere where there was an inventory done when he started this. No. So who knows what is what?? And any moron would know to have 2 people doing this kind of job, duh. That would be commom sense. If he was on the up and up he would have requested that when he began, just to protect himself. I think he was set up to take the fall for everyone else dipping in the pot, and I'm sure he did his share also. But, look who we are talking about, Huron County Crooks dept., oh, I meant Sheriffs Dept, my bad!!

and we (Anonymous)

wonder why the couple of heroin dealers keep getting off. Makes me wonder if they are narcing or suppling those who are suppose to protect and serve us.