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Hackett part of gun incident

Police: Ex-candidate chased 3 after they crashed fence

BY FEOSHIA HENDERSON AND SHARON COOLIDGE | [email protected] AND [email protected]

INDIAN HILL - Indian Hill lawyer and former congressional candidate Paul Hackett - armed with a loaded assault rifle - chased down three men in a car after it crashed into a fence at his home in the early morning hours of Nov. 19.

The driver was charged with failure to maintain reasonable control, driving under suspension and carrying a concealed weapon - a pair of brass knuckles found in his pocket - according to the Indian Hill police.

Indian Hill Rangers consider the matter closed, but a Hamilton County grand jury two weeks ago took testimony from the three men in the car and the ranger who investigated the incident, according to an Indian Hill police report.

Indian Hill Police Chief Chuck Schlie said police don't plan any further investigation.

Schlie said the prosecutor's office called the Indian Hill police department to ask about the incident several days after it happened.

"The prosecutor's office wanted a copy of the report, and we turned it over from there," he said.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters would not say whether his office was investigating.

"We will have at any particular time two or three dozen ongoing investigations, and we simply do not discuss them," Deters said. "It's not fair to people involved. We have allegations that turn out to be nothing. Simply mentioning investigations can be very unfair."

Ohio law says guns can be used in self-defense in cases to repel deadly force. Criminal damaging is a misdemeanor and would not be considered a crime of deadly force.

Hackett, in a statement released Tuesday by his attorney, said he didn't know that a grand jury was investigating the incident.

"Paul is distressed, however, that his privacy has been invaded and that the secrecy of the grand jury has been violated," said Greg Moore, a lawyer who works in Hackett's office.

Indian Hill Ranger Paul White appeared Dec. 27 before a Hamilton County grand jury, according to an Indian Hill police report. The three men Hackett chased down - Anthony Leonaardi, 19, of Delhi Township, and Robert Lawall Jr., 18, and Eric Fee, 18, both of Green Township - also appeared before the grand jury, the report said.

Charges are not always immediately brought when it comes to grand jury testimony. A case can remain under investigation in order to bring other witnesses before the grand jury, or other evidence might need to be gathered.

Grand jury proceedings are considered secret. Prosecutors and grand jurors are not allowed to discuss cases or investigations. However, witnesses called to the grand jury can speak freely. They can confirm that they appeared, say what they were asked and even discuss their answers.

Leonaardi, Lawall and Fee did not return calls for comment Tuesday.

Moore said Hackett hopes that Deters will investigate whether the law was broken in regard to the grand jury investigation being discussed.

"Paul has every confidence that in the end, justice will be served."

The incident happened around 4:30 a.m. Nov. 19. Police were called to Hackett's Indian Hill house after Fee failed to make a curve and ran into a fence at the home on Given Road, according to the police report.

When White arrived at the house, Hackett's wife, Suzi, told him that her husband had called her to say he had stopped the men on Keller Road.

White called for backup. He arrived at a driveway in the 8700 block of Keller Road to find the three men lying face down near their small, black car and Hackett's pickup truck. With a flashlight, White saw a strap on Hackett's right shoulder and "what appeared to be an assault rifle hanging along his right side," White's report said.

White told Hackett to put away the rifle and "not take things into his own hands."

Fee was the only person charged. He is scheduled to plead to the charges Jan. 24, according to court records.

During the investigation, Hackett told police Nov. 30 that he was carrying an AR-15. He said one round was in the chamber and that he usually has 28 rounds in the magazine. He also told police that he did not point the weapon at the three men, the safety was on and he never put his finger on the trigger.

Hackett said he had followed a trail of fluid left by the car, and the vehicle stopped in a driveway. Hackett told police that he hopped out of his truck and that he was armed.

"He told the boys to 'Get the ---- out of the car and get on the ground.' ... He said he did not touch the vehicle with the rifle and maintained his distance. 'I knew they saw I was armed,' he said. He said he had done this about 200 times in Iraq, but this time there was not a translation problem," the Indian Hill police report said.

Moore said Hackett was woken up by "criminal activity" and "took affirmative action to protect his wife and family from an unknown disturbance at his house." He then "attempted to bring the perpetrators to justice who had fled from the scene," according to Moore.

- Janq
 
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