Coshocton judge race turns into bitter, personal fight

Gun Rights


William Todd Drown accusing Judge Robert Batchelor and others of political corruption relating to Drown’s criminal indictment

COSHOCTON — The race for the Republican nomination for judge of Coshocton County Common Pleas Court has turned bitter between two old rivals. 

Incumbent Robert Batchelor is being challenged by attorney William Todd Drown. Batchelor first won the bench in 2010 over Drown, who ran as a Democrat. Drown also lost a bid for judge of Coshocton County Probate and Juvenile Court as a Democrat against Van Blanchard II in 2012. 

Drown has come under fire from some for switching parties and an indictment issued April 15 by a Coshocton County Grand Jury. He was charged with robbery, tampering with evidence and theft in office from an incident on May 24, 2021. Drown said it related to cleanup of tires from a blighted property in the Village of Conesville, where he serves as solicitor. 

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He’s scheduled to be arraigned at 1 p.m. Friday in Coshocton County Common Pleas Court, rescheduled from Monday. Batchelor has recused himself from the case, which is being handled by a special prosecutor from Licking County and not the Coshocton County Prosecutor’s Office. Conesville Village Council is expected to discuss keeping Drown on as solicitor at its next regular meeting Wednesday. 

Per court documents, Drown is being represented by attorney Samuel Shamansky of Columbus. Assigned to the case is retired Judge Daniel T. Hogan of Franklin County. 

Drown has called the charges bogus and ”the worst political hit job there has ever been.” He has demanded Batchelor and Coshocton County Prosecutor Jason Given resign and has sent a letter to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office asking for an investigation into the matter.

Batchelor said the case is not politically motivated and he’s had nothing to do with it as judges do not choose cases to present to a grand jury and are not present in the courtroom when grand juries review cases. He also said he would participate in any inquiry or investigation from the attorney general’s office if launched. 

Drown has also sent a letter to the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office asking for neutral observers to oversee the primary. Drown stated in the letter that he had no confidence in Republican members of the Coshocton County Board of Elections to fairly administer the election. The Tribune has contacted the BOE for comment. 

In aggressive ads on WTNS Radio, Drown has compared himself to former President Donald Trump running afoul of what he calls the Republican elite who will do anything to keep him from office. Other ads have Drown questioning the plea bargaining system in the common pleas court and citing specific cases where charges were lowered or less than the maximum sentence was issued. The radio ads and videos of Drown addressing allegations against him can be found on his campaign’s Facebook page

The Coshocton County Republican Party, which endorsed Batchelor, has sponsored a website questioning Drown’s morals and ethics while listing ways it believes he has failed as an attorney, businessman and politician. 

Why run for office?

Despite controversy surrounding the race, both candidates said they are running for office as they want the best for Coshocton County and it’s residents. 

Batchelor said he feels being judge is the best way he can serve the community. This includes protecting the rule of law and U.S. Constitution. Accomplishments from his time as judge includes starting a drug court in 2015 and creating a probation department in 2019. Prior the court used two parole officers on loan from the state. 

“Even though I was a trial lawyer in that very courtroom for my entire career, the moment I took the bench for the first time in 2011 is when I fully realized the impact a judge has on the lives of the people who come before the court,” he said. ”Every decision impacts the very place where I live, work and raise a family. I believe that I’ve been part of something bigger than I expected by being part of a great team that continues to make Coshocton County safer and better for everyone.” 

Drown said he’s mainly running because he feels the plea bargaining system in the local court is broken and leads to offenders not being punished to the fullest extent. He was a victim of assault at the age of 18 and understands what victims go through, but he also feels protecting the greater good needs considered.

“I understand what victims go through and I understand how important it is to listen to their story and not discount what they went through. Nevertheless, we cannot allow victims to compromise public safety by demanding minimum sentences of 10 years or less for child rapists and predators. That does not protect other families and their children,” he said. 

Goals for office

If elected, Drown said he would examine speeding up the civil docket, which could include making the magistrate position full time and sharing the post with juvenile court. He would also require everyone who works for the court or courthouse to disclose names of relatives and other potential conflicts of interest to avoid improper influence or connection to certain factions. 

“I want justice in this county to be truly blind so the punishment always fits the crime and not the person. I will reign in the abusive plea bargain process and crazy sweetheart sentences given out by our local court to violent criminals,” Drown said. ”I say this to violent criminals and those who traffic in heroin and fentanyl and other such drugs, you will do serious time for these serious crimes if I am elected judge.”

Batchelor agreed the drug epidemic is a major local issue and he feels he’s done well in sentencing drug offenders. However, he said it takes more than prison terms to make the community safer and one has to ask what happens when someone is released. In his next term if elected, Batchelor wants to create a re-entry program for those returning to the community from prison.

“The law says people leaving prison are returned to the county that sentenced them to prison. Like it or not, this is the law. When these Coshocton County residents are released, the only thing they get from the prison warden is $75 and a pat on the back. It’s no wonder when people get out of prison, with nowhere to live, no job, no family and no future, they end up back on the street using drugs. Eventually they start selling drugs and the story goes on,” he said. “By establishing a re-entry program with the help of community leaders, we can assist offenders in leading productive lives that will make our community safer.”

Leonard Hayhurst is a community content coordinator and general news reporter for the Coshocton Tribune with close to 15 years of local journalism experience and multiple awards from the Ohio Associated Press. He can be reached at 740-295-3417 or llhayhur@coshoctontribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @llhayhurst.

The Drown File

William Todd drown is past solicitor for the villages of Gann, Fredericktown, Edison and Warsaw; current village solicitor for Conesville and Nellie; municipal court prosecutor for Edison; past special counsel for villages of Sparta, Utica, Centerburg and Centerburg School District; past legal counsel for Walhonding Valley Fire District and Coshocton County Habitat for Humanity; current legal counsel for Coshocton County Board of Realtors; and past interim executive director for the Coshocton County Metropolitan Housing Authority. Drown has owned Fidelity Title and Closing Services Agency for 25 years.  

He has worked for the United States Department of State in Washington D.C.; U.S. embassy in San Jose, Costa Rica; Rep. John Boehner; capital crimes division of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office under Betty Montgomery; U.S. Department of Justice Office of the U.S. Trustee Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee for the Southern District of Ohio. He also served as a campaign aide and White House Advance Team for Ohio for President George H.W. Bush. He’s a member of the NRA.

Drown’s office has supported 4-H activities at the Coshocton County Fair, sponsored a holiday lighting contest and six families every Christmas. His office donates to programs of the Coshocton County Career Center and does work for local churches, pastors and charities at little to no charge. 

The Batchelor File

Bob Batchelor has served as Coshocton County Common Pleas Court Judge since 2011. This followed his service as the Coshocton County Prosecutor from 2001 to 2010.  He and his wife Shelley have been married 26 years and have raised two sons. The couple are involved with their church, the Coshocton County Public Library and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Batchelor was awarded distinction from the Ohio State Bar Foundation for his work with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Kiwanis Club and the American Cancer Society. He is a member of the NRA and the Coshocton Gun Club.

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