SIDNEY — Former Miami County attorney Christopher Bucio has filed a motion to be released from community control sanctions just over a year after being sentenced. The case involves the unethical sale of land in exchange for professional services,
Online court records also detail the situation that resulted in him being incarcerated for a short period of time earlier this month. While Bucio outlines the incident in detail, local authorities refuse to tell their side of the story.
Bucio, 39, of Sidney, filed an affidavit requesting his early release in Shelby County Common Pleas Court last week. No date has been set for a ruling to be handed down by retired visiting Judge J. Timothy Campbell of Greene County.
In retrospect, on Aug. 18, 2010, Linda Heucker of Sidney was arrested on charges of cultivation of marijuana, a second-degree felony, and endangering children, a third-degree felony. Lacking available funds, Heucker employed Bucio in an agreement to have a 22-acre tract of farmland serve as financial backing to hire him and his firm, Roberts, Kelly and Bucio, LLP, according to online court records.
Eventually, the land was deeded to the firm and sold for $135,000, unbeknownst to Heucker, all of which was retained by the law firm. The money was eventually returned to Heucker in full.
The result of Heucker complaining to state officials, Bucio faced an investigation into the sale. On Nov. 30, 2016, he pleaded guilty to a negotiated charge of unauthorized use of property, a fourth-degree felony. He was facing the possibility of a maximum of 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.
On Jan. 20, 2017, Bucio was sentenced to a maximum of five years community control through the Shelby County Adult Probation Department. Part of the plea agreement stated that if Bucio conducted himself as instructed by probation officers, and paid all fines, court costs, and fees, the court would consider his early release from community control after one year of his sentencing date.
In early January 2017, Bucio was suspended from practicing law for an interim period. This included a two-year suspension with 12 months stayed. However, on Nov. 29, 2017, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled he was to be indefinitely suspended. The ruling meant Bucio could not seek reinstatement until Nov. 30, 2019.
Probation problem may hamper early release
Bucio recently spoke to the Sidney Daily News about his efforts to be released from probation, which may be endangered by his recent jail stay.
“I’ve followed all their rules. I’ve been employed, I’ve passed all the drug tests, I’ve paid all the fines ($5,000) and followed curfew. I want it known that my children and family are grateful to the probation department to help us get this behind us and to move on,” Bucio said.
Currently, he serves as chief operating officer for Skymesh LLC, of Troy, an internet access company. Previously, he had worked for Elsner Painting in Sidney, and as a law clerk for attorney Ryan Reed in Urbana.
In the court papers, Bucio indicates a good relationship with his probation officer Dustin Snow. He notes his behavior was rewarded with an expansion of curfew hours and permission to coach youth sports.
It was a unique interaction with Snow that eventually led to Bucio’s recent incarceration at the Shelby County Jail. The situation damaging to his community control release efforts is detailed in his recent court filing.
The records indicate Bucio and his family attended his daughter’s swim meet at the Sidney-Shelby County YMCA on Nov. 18, 2017. When they returned home that evening the heating unit in their home had malfunctioned and was unable to be fixed until the following day.
Bucio said the family then checked into the Sidney Comfort Inn due to the lack of heat. Bucio and his wife, Amber, have three children ages 4, 9 and 10.
According to online records at U.S. Climate Data, the high temperature that day in Sidney was 51 degrees with a low recorded at 36 degrees. Seven-tenths of an inch of precipitation was also noted that day.
In the filing, Bucio admits that due to an “unexpected and stressful emergency on a Saturday night” he failed to telephone Snow to alert him to receive permission as the rules direct.
Around 9 p.m., while dining at a food court attached to the hotel, Bucio encountered Shelby County Probation Patrick Reed, whom he told of the situation. Reed reportedly had a pleasant visit with the family and gave quarters to their children for nearby video games.
Bucio told the SDN that he mistakenly believed his conversation with Reed constituted him meeting the notification requirement.
Warning directive overturned by department chief
In early December, Snow questioned Bucio about the incident. When asked about the lack of notification, Bucio told of his not calling, and his interaction with Reed at the hotel. Snow said Reed was employed as a security guard at the hotel, at the time, and not acting as a representative of the probation department. Bucio was advised he should have left a detailed phone message at the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, according to court records.
Bucio told the SDN he was not informed of Reed working as a security guard that night, and that he was unaware of the option of phoning the sheriff’s office.
The filing states, “Mr. Snow advised me that he really appreciated and respected my honesty and would not give me a probation violation.” It continued, “He indicated that he was rewarding my honesty with a warning” indicating the emergency caused the oversight.
That decision would be overturned by Chief Adult Probation Officer Ruth Day (Cooper), the head of the department. When asked why the decision was made, she told the SDN that she nor anyone in her department is permitted to talk with the media regarding individual cases.
The reversal would result in a mandatory 48-hour incarceration for Bucio.
The records indicate Snow and Bucio had three contacts prior to their Jan. 3 meeting. No mention of the ruling reversal was made until that meeting. The filing indicates Snow apologized, but had no choice but to give him a “probation violation,” based on Day’s mandatory orders.
The court records use the term “probation violation.” However, a letter dated Jan. 17 obtained by the SDN, from Snow to Bucio, clarifies the offense as an “in house infraction” noting it was because of an “out of residence curfew” incident.
Bucio told the SDN he went into the meeting seeking permission to attend his son’s boot camp graduation into the Coast Guard in New Jersey. He received permission to attend, and upon his return, voluntarily reported to the county jail around 6 p.m. Jan. 6 (Saturday), to serve his sentence.
Bucio stated to the SDN that he was placed in the general population area among federal inmates, an uncommon move for local attorneys. Not long after, he was watching his arrest being reported on television. He questions his pod placement and how the media came to know so quickly of his jailing.
He was released early in the day Jan. 8.
In backing his client’s effort to be released from community control, attorney David Greer of Dayton, stated in his court filing, that Bucio’s infraction “is so minor and technical that it should be regarded as innocuous.”
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.