A former Greenfield minister who spent time in prison after being convicted of stealing from the church was back in Highland County Common Pleas Court on Wednesday to address recently filed motions, both of which were were ultimately denied.
James A. Blaine, 67, Chillicothe, filed two motions in September, one for a reduction of restitution and the other for the return of personal property in the form of a computer that had previously been seized by the sheriff’s office from his office at the Good Shepherd Church in Greenfield.
As to the motion to reduce Blaine’s restitution, Judge Rocky Coss said that the matter had already been litigated and could not be litigated again. Coss referenced a June 2015 entry from the court reducing Blaine’s restitution from $267,911 to a currently-owed amount of $89,277.
In his 2015 entry, Coss noted that the victim had received a $150,000 reduction from a lender which was taken into account. Also noted were deductions from the restitution due to insurance payments made to the victim.
On Wednesday, Blaine, who represented himself, argued that his motion was based on an Ohio appellate court decision about plea agreements, and a person not being responsible for restitution associated with charges on which they were not convicted.
Blaine was charged with 17 counts, but only pled guilty to two of those through a plea agreement in 2010.
Coss said Blaine agreed to pay the restitution when he struck a plea bargain with the state.
“You can’t have buyer’s remorse,” Coss said. “You agreed to this.”
The judge also noted that everything offered in the motion was not new information and could have been brought forward on previous occasions. And, since the matter of restitution was “fully litigated” last summer, it could not be litigated again.
In the other motion, Blaine claimed that a computer removed from his office was his and not the church’s and contained over a decade of work, which he described as “over 1,500 sermons and lessons, worksheets, notes, personal records and letters, weddings, funerals, two books, etc.” He said his intellectual property on the computer is worth more than $300,000.
But prosecutor Anneka Collins said none of those items were on the computer. What was on the computer was identifying information of the church’s congregation members, she said.
Blaine said he would be willing to sit down with a church member to go through the computer to make sure all material Blaine might “nefariously use” was removed.
The former minister added that he “obviously wouldn’t” use information like that, stating that when he presided over the church he didn’t do anything directly against individual members, but to the church as a whole.
Coss said that the state had released the computer back to the church, therefore the matter was “between parties.”
“It is outside the purview of the court,” Coss said before denying the motion.
Blaine was sentenced in October 2010 to four years and 11 months in prison on one count of forgery, a fifth-degree felony, and one count of aggravated theft, a third-degree felony, for embezzlement amounting to more than $267,000 from the Good Shepherd Church.
Blaine’s May 2010, 17-count indictment was the result of a seven-month investigation by Highland County Sheriff’s Office detectives into allegations that Blaine stole money from the church by forging names and documents that were then submitted to financial institutions where Blaine obtained money in the name of the church for his personal use.
He was granted judicial release in December 2013 and placed on five years of community control.
Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.