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Lawyer for Anthony Sowell to ask Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold to step down over Internet comments

By James F. McCarty

March 26, 2010, 7:00PM

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A lawyer for accused serial killer Anthony Sowell said the judge hearing the case should step down because of disparaging comments made about the lawyer on the Internet by someone using the judge’s e-mail account.


Attorney Rufus Sims filed a motion Friday asking Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold to remove herself from an unrelated rape case set for a pre-trial next week. Sims, who is handling both cases, intends to ask her to step down from every case he has pending in her courtroom, including the Sowell case.

Sowell, 50, is accused of killing 11 women whose bodies were found at his Imperial Avenue home.

“She is not fit to hear any case that I am involved with,” Sims said Friday afternoon after filing the four-page motion at the Justice Center.

“I am through with her, finished forever,” he added. “She can never be involved in another case of mine.”

Sims walked a copy of the motion to Saffold’s 21st floor courtroom, but the judge was not there. He left the document with a court worker.

The trouble between Sims and Saffold started Thursday when a Plain Dealer reporter asked him about a series of comments made on stories on the newspaper’s Internet affiliate, cleveland.com, under the moniker “lawmiss.” The judge’s personal AOL account was used to set up the lawmiss account.

One of the comments criticized Sims for his defense work in a vehicular homicide trial in which Saffold was the judge. Sims’ client in that case was convicted of vehicular homicide and sentenced to six months in jail.

The commenter advised him to “shut his Amos and Andy style mouth.” The post said Sims did a disservice to his client and that other lawyers could’ve done a better job.

Saffold has denied writing any of the comments. Her 23-year-old daughter, Sydney, on Thursday took responsibility for writing all of the comments. Sydney Saffold is a former law student living in Columbus.

Court records — obtained by the newspaper under a public-records request — showed that three of the comments were made at the exact times and dates someone was logged on to cleveland.com on the judge’s office computer.


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Story compliments of  The Cleveland Plain Dealer

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