Jeffrey Billiel, the former editor of the Sidney Daily News, was sentenced Wednesday morning for public indecency in a case that ended a 40-year career with the newspaper.
Billiel was one of nine men arrested last year in connection with a two-month investigation by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office into illegal sexual activity at the Lockington Reserve.
Billiel alleges the case was politically motivated.
“Photographs taken at the scene of the alleged crime show nobody committing an illegal act. But based on supposition and an intense desire to smear the 40-year editor of the local newspaper that had reported much negative news about the sheriff’s department, including scandals on (Shelby County Sheriff John) Lenhart’s watch, a manipulative plan was concocted,” Billiel said, in part, in the prepared statement.
Lenhart declined to comment about Billiel’s allegations, other than to say the justice system had run its course and Billiel “had an opportunity in court” to present his case.
Billiel, 69, of Sidney, was fined $150 plus costs and sentenced to 10 days in jail by Judge Duane Goettemoeller in Sidney Municipal Court for public indecency, a third-degree misdemeanor.
The judge suspended five days on the condition that Billiel violates no laws of the state or rules of probation for one year and stays away from the Lockington Reserve. Billiel had pleaded no contest to the charge.
Goettemoeller placed Billiel on probation for one year or until all obligations with the court have been satisfied, whichever occurs first. As long as Billiel is in compliance with probation requirements, the five days in jail will begin in six months, and may be reconsidered if the fine and costs are paid in full. Billiel’s sentence was similar to those given other men arrested in the sting operation.
Prior to sentencing, Billiel’s attorney, Rob Wiesenmayer, told the judge “the situation has been very embarrassing to my client.” Wiesenmayer said Billiel had contributed “a lot to the community” during his years at the Sidney Daily News. He asked that “any jail time be suspended.”
After Wiesenmayer’s statements, Goettemoeller asked Billiel if he had anything to say. “There’s not much I can add to that,” Billiel said.
Of the men who were charged, eight were arrested in late November; one was arrested in October. Video surveillance showed the men exposing themselves or engaged in sexual activity with other men, authorities said.
Although he made only a brief comment in court, Billiel did release a lengthy statement afterward criticizing the tactics he alleged Lenhart used regarding the public indecency case.
Billiel said the other party in the alleged crime, James A. Schamp, 83, of Dayton, has a prior conviction in Montgomery County. According to court records, he was found guilty of public indecency in Dayton in 2011 and was under a court order not to offend again or face 30 days in jail. Billiel said Schamp was offered a plea deal in which he would be charged only with disorderly conduct, and avoid jail, if he testified against Billiel.
“So, a man with more than 40 years of service to Sidney and Shelby County, and who had received two speeding tickets in 69 years of life, was dragged out of his office in handcuffs in front of his staff, driven around until Channel 7 could arrive at the jail to photograph him being booked, and was the subject of a special press conference at which Lenhart did everything but convict him outright,” Billiel said in his statement.
“The sheriff was not about to leave anything to chance regarding Schamp’s plea deal. He solicited and gained the consent of City Prosecutor Jeff Amick, thereby heading off any possibility that the charge against me might be reduced or dismissed,” Billiel added.
Amick said information provided by an informant was not important in convicting Billiel.
“We were very confident in the outcome of the case,” he said. He said all the defendants in the Lockington Reserve public indecency cases admitted to the charges and were found guilty.
Excerpts from Billiel’s statement may be viewed by clicking here.