Former Ohio AG's wife pleads guilty

Chris Rizo Apr. 28, 2010, 2:45pm

Marc Dann (D)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline) -Former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann's wife pleaded guilty this week to a state ethics charge that could send her to jail.

Alyssa Lenhoff, who filed this month for divorce from the disgraced former Democratic attorney general, was charged with having an unlawful interest in a public contract, a first-degree misdemeanor.

Lenhoff's case centers on the $6,500 grant she won from the state attorney general's office to teach a course in the Youngstown State University journalism program she directs.

Under a plea deal entered Monday in Franklin County Municipal Court, she was fined $1,000 plus court costs and sentenced to 10 days in jail - time she won't have to serve so long as she cooperates with ongoing investigations relating to her estranged husband.

Prosecutors said Lenhoff pressured Dann's top aide at the time, Edgar Simpson, to approve and release grant money for a course she was to teach about unsolved crimes.

Simpson approved the grant, even amid concerns there might be a conflict of interest. Dann ultimately stopped the funds' release.

Last month, Simpson received a suspended jail sentence for failing to report on state financial disclosure forms the $350 he received from Dann's campaign committee and roughly $800 he received from Dann's transition committee.

Dann resigned in May 2008, amid a sexual harassment scandal and after admitting to an extra-marital affair with a staffer.

A report by state Inspector General Thomas Charles said Dann's office widely tolerated sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior. Dann put his friends in key positions, which helped turn the AG's office into a "house of scandal," the 71-page report said.

Lenhoff is the fourth person to plead guilty to criminal charges relating to the 17 months Dann was in office.

The Ohio Ethics Commission and Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien's office brought the case against her and the others, including Simpson and Dann's former general services director, Tony Gutierrez, who has pleaded guilty to felony and misdemeanor theft and ethics charges.

The investigation of Dann is ongoing. Being probed is use of his campaign account and a transition account that raised money between the November 2006 general election and his swearing-in as attorney general in January.

If prosecutors pursue misdemeanor charges against him, they must be filed by May 14, under the Ohio statute of limitations. If felonies are filed, investigators have years more before they must file charges.

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