Prosecutor chooses not to charge man; offers a new lease on life instead

Crime Reports

Photo provided by Athens County Prosecutors Office–Tim Harvath enjoys a day on the golf course.

ATHENS, Ohio (WCMH)–The Athens County Prosecutor explained why he would not charge a man with felony crimes. The email folder is flooded with information from government agencies explaining what charges will be filed and against whom.

On Friday, May 28 Keller Blackburn sent a news release explaining why he chose not to charge a man. The story is in the Prosecutor Office’s own words. You will learn about a man who struggled his entire life with himself, drugs, and how the prosecutor helped the man help himself.

Photo provided by Athens County Prosecutors Office–Tim Harvath takes a selfie while fishing.

ATHENS, Ohio – Tim Horvath sat in a room with Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn; his fate in the hands of the law enforcement official in front of him. He spoke the truth and held tightly to hope as his life’s direction balanced precariously on the head of a pin.

Blackburn took in the entire situation, leaned forward and told Horvath his fate.

Horvath, 46, originally of Illinois, grew up in a good household to a normal middle-class family. His father was a police officer. He was raised right and taught to work for a living. At age 19, though, he checked into his first rehabilitation facility and would face legal problems — including involvement in a Chicago crime organization — over the next 20 years.

Horvath believes he was born an alcoholic and he made that discovery at the age of 14. Mix in some marijuana and acid every now and then and Horvath’s priorities were suddenly clear and did not include school.

“My attendance junior and senior year struggled and so did my grades,” Horvath said. “I loved golf but my best years on varsity were freshman and sophomore by far. Several girlfriends left because of my alcohol and drug intake and things with my family definitely got strained.”

Horvath was intelligent enough to ace tests, but the time needed for homework and other assignments gave way to recreational drug use. He had enough credits to graduate after his junior year but was required to attend for his senior session. When he turned 18 in December that year, he left school and left home, landing in Chicago.

“I wanted to do what I wanted to do. That’s the selfishness of addiction. I didn’t want to play by my dad’s rules. I wanted to be my own person,” Horvath said. “It got to a point where I couldn’t hold a job anymore. Work wasn’t that important to me. Drinking, drugs, and partying was.”

Before the age of 19, Horvath had added cocaine to his drug repertoire and started dabbling in dealing. His brushes with the law were minor at first but just before his 21st birthday, police raided a home where he was staying and he was hit with intent to distribute marijuana charges, receiving five years of probation.

That was of little significance when compared to Horvath’s next venture that saw him involved in a criminal organization in Chicago. In this life, it was a weekly occurrence to dodge bullets.

“It was fast money, fast times and every day could have been the day a bullet hit. But it was that whole ‘live for the day,’ thing,” Horvath said. “It’s scary to think about now because I wasn’t thinking then.”

Drug Recovery Resources

While members of this organization sold drugs, robbed and fought other gangs over territory, Horvath contributed but “mostly stayed drunk.” With cocaine, he was able to stay awake more and drink more. Then, he discovered he could do more drugs if he did not drink.

However, it all took a toll and Horvath was not happy with what his life was like. That led him to decide to move to Ohio with his mother and he got a job in construction.

“The only thing that organization gave was scars, court cases, and a constant fear of dying,” Horvath said. “Eventually, three things happen. You either die, go to jail, or get away from it all … If you’re lucky.”

He dropped the drugs and alcohol but would still go out with friends and drink non-alcoholic beer. All it took though was one night where an establishment did not offer non-alcoholic beverages to give him the excuse to drink again. Not long after, Horvath was guilty of driving under the influence and his addiction also started to include pills.

Different treatment programs were tried but he did not really buy in until he found Any Length Recovery in South Carolina in April 2014. Things were going well there. He’d bought in, realized what he needed to do and who he needed to be to recover.

“What non-addicts don’t always understand is that a real addict doesn’t want to use drugs anymore. They just can’t use drugs. I remember crying while crushing up pills to snort them. I stuck a gun in [my] mouth 20 times,” Horvath said. “It is a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body and a daily terror.”

Unbeknownst to Horvath, Blackburn and his office were deep into an investigation into a major drug ring in Athens County that stemmed from Detroit, Michigan. In the process, they learned of Horvath and his possible connection to the investigation. On a Friday in June 2014, the administrator of Any Length Recovery was watching the news when Horvath’s picture flashed across the screen with the word “Wanted.”

After a few phone calls, Horvath was told Blackburn was coming to talk to him on Monday.

“I went through that weekend freaking out. Nine others were already in custody. They were coming for me,” he said. “They had me. I was doing well and trying to recover and they had me.”

Horvath had plenty of time to think and overthink as it wouldn’t be until the following Monday that Blackburn would actually visit.

“That was the torment of time,” he said. “That week, every night, I worried over and over. Talking to people at recovery helped. I couldn’t run. I mean, I could have but I couldn’t do it anymore.”

June 30, 2014, stands out as a more important date than even the sobriety date for Horvath. Blackburn arrived with Chief Investigator Jay Barrett and others. After their conversation, Horvath received what he calls a miracle.

“He committed a crime, but he started to get treatment on his own. We decided to let him continue in treatment,” Blackburn said. “Sometimes making the community better is not charging someone even when you can. He gave us information without any deals in place or anything. He could have run but he was sincerely getting his life better.”

Blackburn explained that Horvath’s information didn’t turn the tide in what would eventually come to be one of the biggest drug ring busts — more than $3 million worth of pills supplied — in Athens County’s history, but it was a piece of the puzzle that helped the investigation conclude.

“What good would it have done to put him in prison or charge him with a felony? There was nothing that would have made our community better by charging Tim Horvath. We could always charge him later if he didn’t continue his treatment and that’s what we told him,” Blackburn continued. “That’s the immense power of a prosecutor to make a community better.”

Horvath completed the program and stayed on to work at the facility for two years. He has now been employed for a dialysis company for more than two years and enjoys his free time fishing and golfing.

Another benefit that came from Blackburn’s decision was the link to Any Length Recovery. Since Horvath’s arrival, the prosecutor’s office has sent a handful of other Athens County residents to the facility for treatment and each has met their own measure of success.

“He’s helped other people from our community succeed in that treatment facility. He’s been a model for people who, when given an opportunity, can make it,” Blackburn said.

“He was definitely on the right track. The treatment (Horvath) was going through there was immensely helpful to him and he just keeps evolving. His life keeps getting better,” Barrett added.

Horvath has enjoyed more than seven years of sobriety, but he also points out that, if charged and convicted, he would still have 13 years left in prison to serve.

Blackburn said the bigger picture lesson from Horvath’s story is that the past doesn’t have to define the future.

“No matter what you’ve done in your life, you can turn it around,” he said. “There may still be consequences for what you’ve already done but that doesn’t always have to be prison.”

Last year, Horvath invited his father to attend a speech he was giving at a 12-step program. After telling his story and pointing out his father in the crowd, a woman approached the elder Horvath and said her father never had the chance to see her get sober and expressed her happiness that the Horvaths had that chance.

“My dad said he was proud of me and that’s worth its weight in gold,” Horvath said.

For those caught up in addiction’s grasp, Blackburn advises, “Don’t wait to get caught. Go get help. Come to us for help.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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