A few thousand people – many of them students at Miami University – have committed crimes in Butler County in the past 14 years that are kept secret. Their conviction records have been sealed.
It’s a routine practice in the Butler County courtroom of Judge Rob Lyons. His use of the practice came to light after he granted secrecy to a former Miami student who admitted to creating a flier about how to get away with rape.
Lyons, a part-time judge whose private law practice helps clients seal their criminal records, admitted in a sworn deposition that he’s been sealing cases improperly for the 14 years he’s been on the bench. Lyons has sealed 2,945 cases – more than a third of the new misdemeanor cases filed – in the past five years, an Enquirer analysis shows, using data from area court officials and the Ohio Supreme Court.
“This is a college town,” Lyons said in the recent deposition. Lyons, a Miami University graduate, testified that he didn’t want convictions to hurt students’ chances to graduate or get a job after college.
It is impossible to tell exactly what the charges were in the sealed cases, but they are thought to be misdemeanors, which could include crimes ranging from underage possession of alcohol or disorderly conduct to minor theft or domestic violence. It also is impossible to know who has been granted secrecy and whether those people were originally charged with more serious crimes.