Former Cuyahoga Jail Director Ken Mills sentenced to 9 months in jail

Ken Mills sits in a courtroom at the Justice Center in Downtown Cleveland during his sentencing hearing
Ken Mills declined to speak at his sentencing hearing Friday. [Taylor Haggerty / Ideastream Public Media]

Updated: 4:03 p.m., Friday, Oct. 8, 2021

Ken Mills will spend nine months in the jail he once oversaw. Judge Patricia Cosgrove sentenced the former Cuyahoga County jail director to six months for falsification and 90 days for dereliction of duty. 

He must serve the terms consecutively, not concurrently, Cosgrove said.

Mills was found guilty of four charges last month, including two charges of falsification and two charges of dereliction of duty. The jury found Mills not guilty of tampering with records, the one felony charge he faced. Cosgrove merged the two falsification charges, and the two charges of dereliction of duty.

The conditions at the jail have always been serious, Cosgrove said, but Mills’ policies and actions pushed it further. That included efforts to regionalize the jail system and bring additional Cleveland arrests directly to the county jail Downtown, she said.

“That bad situation was elevated to an unsafe, unsanitary, unhealthy environment. And there’s nobody else to blame but this defendant,” Cosgrove said.

Public service is an honor, Cosgrove said, and Mills’ time as director has had a lasting negative effect on inmates and their families, as well as law enforcement officers and the county’s reputation.

The Ohio Attorney General's office, which prosecuted the case, called for the nine-month sentence to reflect the harm inflicted at the county jail.

“That will act as a deterrent,” said prosecutor Matthew Meyers. “Not just on wardens and jail administrators or county executives, but on any public official who chooses to misuse their power.”

The trial focused on who should be held responsible for inhumane conditions at the Cuyahoga County jail, particularly overcrowding and a lack of medical care. During the years in question, eight people died in the facility.

The defense argued Mills was not responsible, pointing to other county officials who were involved with the jail during his time as director. The case is full of hypocrisy, said lead defense attorney Kevin Spellacy.

“I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again and I’ll say it until I’m gone. Where’s the sheriff? Where’s [Chief Deputy] George Taylor?” he said.

The defense expressed a desire to appeal the decision. Spellacy asked the court to consider staying Mills’ sentence for an appellate bond, but the request was denied.

The combined dereliction charge stems from Mills’ time as Director of Regional Corrections for Cuyahoga County. Mills oversaw the three jails run by the county in Downtown Cleveland, Bedford Heights and Euclid.

The combined falsification charge comes from statements Mills provided during a Cuyahoga County Council meeting in 2018. Mills told council in that meeting he had no authority over hiring nurses for the jails. But testimony and evidence during the trial demonstrated Mills blocking a request for two nurses at the Euclid jail.

 

An earlier version of this story said Judge Emily Hagan sentenced Mills. It was Judge Patricia Cosgrove.

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