A long-serving Ohio politician has been arrested on 26 felony charges involving sexual misconduct with teenagers. His lawyers say it’s an attack because of his identity as a gay man.
Phillip Garcia, 63, is the councilman for Ward 2 in Conneaut. He is also a member of the Parks and Recreation committee, Economic Development Committee, and Public Service Department/Cemeteries committee.
Authorities indicted Garcia on Tuesday (28 August). They took him to Ashtabula County Jail, where he is being held on the charges. He was being investigated for several months prior to his arrest.
The charges include five counts of rape, four counts of corruption of a minor, and two counts of sexual conduct with a minor. The other 15 are counts of compelling prostitution.
According to court documents, the alleged misconduct took place between 1997 and 2005. Garcia’s apparent victims were five minors between the ages of 13 and 17. Four of the five worked for Garcia’s catering business.
Attorney General DeWine said there are also concerns there may be more victims.
An overzealous hunt?
The law firm DiCaudo, Pitchford & Yoder released a statement for Garcia’s attorney, Reid Yoder.
In it, they state the attack on Garcia is ‘unfair and unjust’. They also state it is happening ‘because he is a homosexual’ and that his actions have been ‘mischaracterized’.
It continues: ‘This indictment is an extreme example of police and prosecutors grossly overcharging a person based on their sexual orientation in attempt to gain media headlines.’
‘Mr. Garcia intends to fight these charges zealously and looks forward to his day in Court where the actual truth will be disclosed,’ the statement ends.
The City of Conneaut also released a statement, expressing their shock of the indictment.
‘The City condemns any act of sexual abuse against anyone at any time, particularly minors,’ it reads. ‘We are deeply concerned for the victims of sexual abuse and that their rights, as well as the rights of those who are accused, are protected.’
Garcia is appearing at an arraignment hearing this afternoon.
H/t: News 5 Cleveland