Fraud Case ends against TG Man who said he was Male
Statute of Limitations Prevents Prosecution
by Eric Resnick, The Gay People's Chronicle
Canton Municipal Court Judge John Poulos on April 3 dismissed the case against Sean Brookings of Springfield Township. Brookings, a transsexual, was arrested February 6 and charged with falsification for saying he was a man on three marriage license applications in 1988, 1990, and 1994.
Judge Brings ComplaintThe charges were brought by Stark County Probate Judge R.R. Denny Clunk. It is rare for a judge to step off the bench and become the complainant in a case.
Clunk swore the complaint last September. Clunk refused comment for this report, but said earlier that "[The Brookings matter] was called to my attention and I don't remember how."
However, the Gay People's Chronicle has obtained a copy of a letter sent to both Clunk and the Stark County prosecutor from Vincent Alfera, a Tallmadge attorney representing the children of Brookings' fifth wife in a dispute over her will. Alfera urged that Brookings be prosecuted. Dimple Lois McKinney's children say that their mother's will is void because the marriage was fraudulent due to Brookings' transsexuality. The will leaves the only asset of the marriage, a mobile home, to Brookings.
The Stark County prosecutor handed the case to the Canton city prosecutor. A source in the Canton law department said, "Clunk really twisted arms to get this prosecuted."
Alfera and Assistant Prosecutors Scott Eckstein and Lewis Guarnieri were contacted for comment on the ruling. None responded prior to press time.
Too Late to ProsecuteJudge Poulos did not address the merits of Clunk's complaint against Brookings, nor was he asked to. He ruled that the statute of limitations had passed. The statute of limitations on first degree misdemeanors in Ohio is two years. The events that Brookings was charged for occurred 8 to 14 years ago.
Poulos rejected prosecutor Eckstein's claim that what Brookings did contained elements of fraud. Ohio law allows old cases to be prosecuted if fraud is discovered.
Eckstein also argued that Ohio law allows prosecution when there is "a continuing course of conduct," allowing the clock to begin on limitations when the conduct ends. Poulos rejected that, too.
"The two year statute of limitations ran in this case on December 20, 1996. Criminal prosecution of [Brookings] was not initiated until September 27, 2001," Poulos wrote.
Attorney ResponseBrookings' attorney, Randi Barnabee of Macedonia, called the decision "very encouraging."
"Our community has seen gay exceptions to nearly every legal protection enjoyed by everyone else," said Barnabee.
Barnabee praised Poulos additionally for his thoughtfulness despite another judge's involvement in the case. "He's arguably the most powerful judge in the county," Barnabee said of Clunk, "and he personally filed this."
"It's good to see that another court within the county was able to sort through the legal matters and distinguish from any personal agenda that might be at play," Barnabee concluded.
Clunk has a history of anti-gay and anti-transgender rulings, including denial of otherwise uncontested name changes to partners wanting to share last names with each other and their children. He called one lesbian couple's request "a fraud on the court."
In 1987, a year prior to Brookings' first marriage license application as a man, Clunk wrote the landmark In re: Ladrach opinion which denied a marriage license to a post-operative male-to-female transsexual and a biological male. It is one of three rulings in the nation that hold that sex is determined by chromosomes alone. The ruling is seen by transsexuals as offensive.