PIKE COUNTY, Ohio (WCMH) — Judge Patricia A. Cosgrove sentenced suspended Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader Wednesday to three years in prison on charges of theft in office, tampering with evidence, and conflict of interest.
The judge said she gave Reader the minimum, but that the sentence reflects the seriousness of the charges.
Reader received one year in prison on one count of theft in office and one year in prison on a second count of theft in office to run concurrently; two years in prison for tampering with evidence and two years in prison for a second tampering charge to run concurrently; and 6 months in jail on the count of conflict of interest to be served concurrently.
“The court believes that some punishment is appropriate for what you have done, in tarnishing the name of law enforcement,” she said.
The judge cited prison sentences she has imposed on other state officials, “But each case is different,” she said. “There was serious economic harm (in this case), but more importantly the offender held a public office or a position of trust related to the offense.”
The judge said Reader didn’t take advantage of free counseling for his mental health issues, including PTSD.
“You’ve been in law enforcement for 24 years. Whether you are sheriff, sheriff’s deputy, or a judge, you choose to be in this profession. We see horrible things…and we have to conduct ourselves with integrity so that everyone trusts us. You had an obligation.”
The judge said Reader brought shame on the law enforcement community.
Before the sentencing, Reader addressed the court.
“I stand here before you today to take accountability for my actions. I shed bad light on the office of sheriff,” Reader said in between sobs. Reader said he worked hard with the community throughout his career and built up trust.
“I betrayed that trust,” Reader said. “If I could go back and change it, I would a million times. This is not who I am.”
Reader said his mental health had suffered during the ordeal. He asked the judge for mercy in the form of community control so he could spend time with his family.
“I am a good person,” Reader said. “Your honor, please don’t send me to prison. I still have a lot of good left in me.”
“Why did you cut open these evidence envelopes and take the money out, and in some cases you put it back?” Judge Cosgrove asked Reader. “Why did you take the money?”
“I took the money — and this does not excuse it — from drug dealers who took it from poor people in this society,” Reader said. He said the drug money went to pay for community services that otherwise could not have been afforded, including a monument to a deceased teen in the community.
Reader said he did not use the money to gamble at Scioto Downs, as was reported.
Prosecutors had asked for a “lengthy prison term” for Reader who pleaded guilty to charges in September 2020 to two counts of theft in office, two counts of tampering with evidence, and conflict of interest.
Waverly police shut down streets around the courthouse during sentencing as an added safety measure.
An anonymous tip in 2018 prompted an investigation into Reader, and he was indicted in June 2019 on 16 charges. He was suspended from his position as sheriff in July 2019.
As Sheriff, Reader received national attention in 2016 after eight members of the Rhoden family were shot execution-style in Pike County. The investigation, that also involved the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, took more than two years before arrests were made of George Wagner III and members of his family.