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Ohio Supreme Court marshal played key role in finding who sent feces-laced letters to politicians

 Ohio Supreme Court Marshal Bill Crawford, at his place in the courtroom
Karen Kasler
Statehouse News Bureau
Ohio Supreme Court Marshal Bill Crawford, at his place in the courtroom

A former Portage County court mediator was arrested last week for mailing some three dozen letters laced with feces to all 25 Republican state senators, three Ohio Supreme Court justices, and a few appeals court judges and members of Congress over the last year.

The arrest might not have happened without the help of the man best known as the voice calling the Ohio Supreme Court into session, who plans to retire this year.

Ohio Supreme Court Marshal Bill Crawford saw the first feces-tainted letter last August.

“One of my duties here is marshal is to keep track of all the inappropriate communications," Crawford said in an interview for "The State of Ohio." "Everything that comes this oddball, it lands on my desk.”

Crawford noted when he opens mail he wears gloves, and he was glad he did.

He said there wasn't much to the first letter "except it had this brown-colored stuff. And I wasn't real sure."

Crawford reached out to the Ohio Highway Patrol and started investigating, using skills from a career in law enforcement in New York and Ohio.

The second letter had "brown liquid" on the envelope, and Crawford cut it open and found "a small postcard-sized piece of cardboard and written across it in black ink was 'racist.' Why, I have no idea."

Over the next year, similar letters were received by all 25 Republicans in the Ohio Senate, judges at the Sixth District Court of Appeals in Cincinnati and the Ninth District Court of Appeals and members of Congress -- most notably US. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Urbana).

Three Ohio Supreme Court justices got letters; one justice got two letters. By the time the fourth letter arrived at the court last month, Crawford was sharing information he'd gathered with the U.S. Marshal Service, the U.S. Capitol Police and U.S. postal inspectors. Because the investigation is still continuing, Crawford can’t say which three justices got the four letters.

Crawford was relieved when he got the call that his work had helped law enforcement find 77-year-old Richard Steinle of Mogodore, an attorney and former mediator with Portage County Common Pleas Court.

Steinle was charged in federal court with sending potentially hazardous material through the mail. If convicted, Steinle could do a year in prison and pay a $100,000 fine.

Crawford is retiring this year after 18 years with the court.

"It's just so nice to go out with something that really worked out well," Crawford said. “These incidents were the worst I've seen since I've been here."

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.