Official puts aside own legal troubles to cheer son

AKRON, Ohio (AP) - When John Otterman gave up his leadership positions on Akron City Council last week, he said he did so to concentrate on his faith and his family.
Nine-year-old John Jay Otterman, his son, has struggled has a condition known as Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome or HLHS, in which the left side of the heart is underdeveloped.
On June 14, Otterman spent much of Akron Soap Box Derby race day with his son, holding him, encouraging him, cheering him on and sharing his victories and losses. After winning his first heat, the youngster couldn't wait to get out of his derby car to give his dad a hug.
"I told him to do his best, but to have fun and enjoy the day," the councilman said. The boy placed fifth by winning four heats and losing only twice, once to the overall winner of the Akron race.
John Jay has had three open-heart surgeries.
"You don't know what the future holds. You have to have a lot of faith. You have to be strong," Otterman said.
As he cheered on his son that Saturday, the councilman was also struggling with not knowing what his own future would hold.
He had been indicted in 2001, charged with five felony counts of deception to obtain a dangerous drug. A conviction on just one of those would have forced him to step down from City Council.
And after two days of deliberating, jurors had gone home for the weekend without a verdict, which left a cloud hanging over the councilman at the derby. But he did not want to spoil his son's day.
"He knew I was upset about something and kept asking me if I was all right, but I wasn't going to cloud his day," Otterman said. "I always taught him that if you work hard and you're a decent person, everything will work out for the best."
Otterman said he wasn't feeling those words himself that day, but he knew he had to be strong for his son.
By noon June 16, the councilman had been found innocent on all charges. A few minutes after the verdict came in, Otterman said he is resigning as council vice president and other leadership roles.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)