6/28/2013 5:37:00 PM Ancil Cross gets jail time, fines
Former Jackson City Board of Education member and prominent Jackson businessman Ancil Cross receives his sentence after being convicted of authoring anonymous, threading letters to others associated with the school district. Filmed, narrated and produced by Brad S. Sherman for The Telegram.
Photo By Brad S. Sherman
Ancil Cross, left, awaits the start of his sentencing hearing alongside his new attorney Jeffrey Benson.
Former Jackson City Board of Education member and prominent Jackson businessman Ancil Cross was sentenced to serve 120 days in jail and fined $10,000 after he was convicted of writing a series of threatening and spiteful anonymous letters to others associated with the school district.
Cross was convicted of the 3rd-degree felony charge of Intimidation in a three-day jury trial which ended March 20 in Jackson County Common Pleas Court. The jury returned the guilty verdict in only 1 hour and 28 minutes as jurors apparently leaned heavily on the testimony of a handwriting expert.
The 67-year-old Cross is extremely well-known in the Jackson area as he served on the Jackson City Board of Education for 25 years and has owned and operated Cross and Sons Farm Equipment near Jackson for nearly 35 years. Since his conviction, Cross has resigned from his school board seat.
During the trial and again at the sentencing hearing, Cross denied the allegations that he wrote the letters which led to his indictment, conviction, and sentencing.
On Friday afternoon, June 28, Visiting Judge William Corzine pronounced sentence to a grim but composed Cross after he had considered the results of a pre-sentence investigation, a psychological evaluation, and written victim impact statements.
Based on Ohio law, Judge Corzine could have imposed a sentence which ranged from no incarceration with community control sanctions to a maximum term of 3 years in state prison as well as financial penalties.
The prosecutors in the case, attorneys Matthew Donahue and Sarah Schenck from the Ohio Attorney General's Office, recommended a prison sentence of 24 months while Cross' new defense attorney, Jeffrey Benson of Chillicothe, asked for no incarceration and a period of community control sanctions.
The judge's sentence landed somewhere in the middle. It contained the following provisions:
Cross is to be incarcerated in the Jackson County Correctional Facility for 120 days (approximately four months).
Cross is to pay a $10,000 fine.
Upon his release from jail, Cross is to perform 400 hours of community service, but none of it is to involve the Jackson City Schools.
Cross is to pay the costs of his incarceration and supervision, his court costs, and the costs of his psychological evaluation.
Cross is to be subject to the various terms of community control sanctions for 4 years and will be supervised by the Ohio Adult Parole Authority.
Cross is not to have any contact with the principal victim, school board member Virgil Hamilton, or any members of his family.
Judge Corzine warned Cross that any violations of the community sanctions terms could result in stricter sanctions or even a prison term of up to 2 years.
"This is not an easy case," Judge Corzine said as he began his sentencing comments while noting the wide range of his sentencing options and as he tried to weigh and articulate the facts of the case.
Judge Corzine commented that the defendant's age, his record of zero prior criminal offenses, and his philanthropy in the community were all mitigating factors in his favor.
However, the judge also noted that Cross was a public official, "who should be held to a higher standard than the rest of us" and he also was influenced by the fact the letters were written anonymously.
"I can't commend or criticize the jury, but I can understand what they did," Judge Corzine stated. "Frankly, Mr. Cross, my impression was of a man.....who was used to having his own way for 25 years with the money to bring him power and influence and who didn't like to be crossed."
Addressing the factor the letters were written anonymously, Judge Corzine declared: "He (Cross) didn't have the guts to stand up in the light of day and say 'I don't agree with you and I think you're wrong.' He had to use the cover of anonymous letters to vent his anger at someone he apparently disagreed with."
Judge Corzine also advised Cross he had the right to appeal the convictions and sentence and attorney Benson indicated he would be doing just that and requested a stay of the sentence and bail, pending the appeal being filed. This request was opposed by Donahue.
Judge Corzine denied the defense's request for a stay of the sentence and bail, which resulted in Cross being taken to the Jackson County Correctional Facility to immediately begin his incarceration.
Benson was expected to file a notice of appeal immediately with the 4th District Court of Appeals and once this is done, that court can consider the matter of stay of execution and bail.
When given the opportunity to make a statement prior to sentencing, Cross once again denied writing the letters and prefaced his denial by referring to his long tenure as a local businessman and his support of good causes in the community.
"I have never tried to hurt anybody," Cross said. "I had nothing to do with it."
In his victim impact statement, Virgil Hamilton related how the intimidation factor of the letters adversely affected himself and his family. He said Cross wanted to be "the benevolent dictator of Jackson County." He noted Cross has shown no signs of remorse for his actions and that he (Hamilton) is still fearful of retaliation for "exposing the dark side of the community benefactor."