Did authorities — including the lead detective on the Ryan Widmer murder case — illegally raid an adult birthday party and falsely arrest partygoers?
That’s among the main questions that a jury will be asked to decide in a federal civil-rights lawsuit trial that begins today in U.S. District Court, Cincinnati.
Jury selection began this morning in the case involving a family in Warren County’s Hamilton Township.
As part of the trial, former Widmer murder case detective Jeff Braley once again will face being grilled about his alleged resume fraud, court records indicate.
Braley and other officers are accused of conspiring to raid an adult birthday party under false pretenses, then falsely arresting partygoers, whose charges were later dropped. The Pritchard family and their partygoers allege that nearly two dozen officers and state liquor agents stormed the property in 2007 based on unsupported suspicions of underage drinking, court records say. The party was being thrown for Ted Pritchard’s 51st birthday, court records say.
The Pritchard family later learned that the raid happened partly because a Hamilton Township officer’s wife called the Hamilton Township police department from her Butler County home, pretending to be calling from Warren County and reporting she heard loud noise coming from the Prtichards’ party, court records say.
Prospective jurors in the Pritchard case denied recognizing Braley from the highly publicized Widmer case, which ended with Widmer, now 31, who last lived in Mason, being convicted in the 2008 bathtub drowning of his wife. His case went to trial three times, but only two of the prospective jurors in the Pritchard case said they followed any phase of the case closely.
Braley resigned last year after an investigation into false statements on some of his employment documents, though he denied ever making the misrepresentations. Lawyers for Widmer, who is serving 15 years to life in prison for murder, say that Braley’s credibility issues raise questions about the integrity of the Widmer investigation.
A Warren County judge rejected that argument earlier this month. Widmer’s lawyers say they will appeal.