The judge assigned to preside over the trial of Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings is a retired jurist who is no stranger to high-profile cases, including those involving elected officials, and she once rebuked an Athens County sheriff for showing a lack of remorse for his crimes.
Judge Patricia A. Cosgrove is a former Summit County common pleas judge who retired in 2011 after 18 years on the bench to care for her ailing husband. She was assigned the Hastings case by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor after Highland County Common Pleas Judge Rocky Coss recused himself after the mayor was indicted on four felony counts Tuesday by a grand jury. Hastings’ arraignment is set for 9 a.m. Aug. 1.
Before and since her retirement, Cosgrove has overseen a number of hot-button cases.
In 2005, according to the Associated Press, Cosgrove convicted a prominent Akron restaurant owner’s wife of aiding in the drive-by shooting death of a former lover by the third member of a love triangle.
Cosgrove sentenced Cynthia George to 20 years to life following the non-jury trial. “But two years later, George was released from prison after the 9th Ohio District Court of Appeals in Akron overturned Cosgrove’s decision, ruling the judge lacked sufficient evidence to convict George,” the AP reported.
In 2011, she handled the trial of Kelley Williams-Bolar, “an Akron woman convicted of falsifying documents to enroll her daughters in the Copley-Fairlawn schools from 2006 to 2008. Williams-Bolar said she wanted to send her children to a better school, but the district asked for $30,000 in back tuition, according to an ABC News report.
Some media outlets described the situation as an African-American parent trying to send her children to a more affluent, mostly white school district rather than the urban school district in which she lived.
Cosgrove sentenced her to 10 days in county jail and three years probation. The judge said, “I felt that some punishment or deterrent was needed for other individuals who might think to defraud the various school districts,” according to the ABC report.
But Gov. John Kasich “later reduced the felony convictions to misdemeanors,” according to the AP. Then, according to the Akron Beacon Journal, “Kasich, after a torrent of international support for the mother, granted her request for a pardon over the objection of Summit County prosecutors.”
In 2013, Cosgrove was appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court to oversee a special grand jury further investigating persons involved in a Steubenville rape case involving a teen girl and high school football players during a house party. The players were sentenced to the state’s juvenile detention center, and a volunteer football coach who hosted the party was sentenced to 10 days in jail, a year of supervision, 40 hours of community service and a $1,000 fine, according to news reports.
According to the Athens News, during a 2014 case against Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly, Cosgrove imposed a gag rule on comments to the media, and later chastised the defendant for a lack of remorse.
“It’s not going to be tried in the electronic media. It’s not going to be tried in the newspapers. It’s not going to be tried on the radio,” Cosgrove said, according to the newspaper. “We’re going to decide this case based on the evidence, and not on anything else.”
When Kelly was found guilty of 18 crimes, Cosgrove was not impressed that the sheriff remained defiant. According to the Columbus Dispatch, she “rebuked him for misspending public money in an impoverished Appalachian Ohio county that needs every dime it can get, and for not showing remorse for his actions.”
She then sentenced Kelly, 64, to seven years in prison for public corruption, theft in office, perjury and other crimes. She said, “Mr. Kelly has seen himself as a victim rather than look at his own conduct.”
According to a biography from the Summit County court, Cosgrove received her Bachelor of Arts degree from The University of Akron in 1974 and was the recipient of the Akron University Alumni Scholarship. She received her Juris Doctorate degree from The University of Akron and was admitted to the Ohio Bar in 1978.
While working her way through school, she served as a law clerk for the Ninth District Court of Appeals. From 1978 to 1980, she served as assistant Akron law director. She was a senior assistant summit county prosecutor in the Criminal Trial Division from 1981 to 1991. She also maintained a private law practice. Cosgrove later served as chief counsel of the Civil Division of the Summit County prosecutor’s office.
In 1993, she was appointed to the Summit County Court of Common Pleas, elected in 1994 and re-elected in 2000 and 2006.
She has served as president of the Scanlon Inn of Court, a professional organization that is dedicated to mentoring new lawyers. She was the recipient of the outstanding alumni award from The University of Akron School of Law in 2004.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.