Judge: Gravelle's Guilty Verdict Stands; No New Trial

Cleveland, OH (AP)- A judge declined Monday to grant a new trial or acquittal for a couple convicted of child endangering for keeping some of their 11 adopted, special-needs children in cages, a defense attorney said Monday.

Huron County Common Pleas Judge Earl McGimpsey ruled that Michael and Sharen Gravelle failed to show that the jury's verdicts were inconsistent in convicting them on 11 of 24 counts.

The Gravelles, of rural Wakeman in northeast Ohio, were convicted last month of four felony counts of child endangering, two misdemeanor counts of child endangering and five misdemeanor counts of child abuse.

"We respectfully disagree with the court's rulings and we intend to pursue the issues in the court of appeals," said defense attorney Ken Myers, who represents Sharen Gravelle.

The Gravelles were disappointed but "not terribly surprised" by the ruling, he said.

Myers said a key issue on appeal would be the defense contention that descriptions about the size of the enclosures had been misrepresented by investigators seeking a search warrant for the Gravelle home.

The Gravelles say they needed to keep some of the children in enclosed beds with alarms to protect them from their own dangerous behavior and stop them from wandering at night.

They could face one to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000 for each felony count. Their sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 14.

Defense attorneys argued in court Thursday that they did not have access to important evidence at trial, including notes from a social worker that Prosecutor Russell Leffler had been informed about the cages in 2003, two years before the adopted children were removed from the Gravelles' home. The social worker said in the notes that Leffler didn't want to take action because of an upcoming election.

Leffler called the allegation that he didn't want to act because of an election "crazy." He argued that it didn't matter if he said it because it wouldn't exonerate the Gravelles.

But Myers said evidence that more people in the county knew of the cages years before officials removed the children would have created more doubt in the minds of jurors on whether the cages were abusive.

The Gravelle's children, who suffered from problems such as fetal alcohol syndrome and a disorder that involves eating nonfood items, ranged in age from 1 to 14 when authorities removed them in September 2005 from the Gravelles' home in Wakeman, about 60 miles west of Cleveland. They were placed in foster care last fall and the couple lost custody in March.