Morning Journal

Nancy Smith, Joseph Allen acquitted


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

By JORDAN CRAVENS
jcravens@MorningJournal.com

ELYRIA - In an unexpected decision, Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge acquitted Nancy Smith, a former Head Start Bus driver, and Joseph Allen, who were both convicted of child molestation in 1994.

Both Smith and Allen seemed stunned by the acquittal, with Smith and family members bursting into tears as the decision was made by Burge.

Smith, 52, of Lorain, was convicted of taking several 4- and 5-year-old children on her Head Start bus to the Lorain apartment of Joseph Allen, 56, where they would sexually abuse them.

“The court has absolutely no confidence that these verdicts are correct,” said Burge prior to acquitting the two.

While crediting defense, prosecution, police officers and investigators for doing the best job they could to represent their clients and the State of Ohio, he still felt the verdict reached in 1994 was not the correct one.

Nancy Smith at bond hearing
Former Head Start bus driver Nancy Smith and her attorney Jack Bradley at a hearing in February, 2009.  MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL
Both Smith and Allen had been previously vacated from their sentencing by Burge earlier this year. Smith was facing a 30 to 90 year sentence, but is now free.

“Judge Burge made a very courageous decision, but I think he made the right decision,” said Smith’s attorney, Jack Bradley, after the hearing.

“We certainly appreciate all the work he has done and we are lucky justice has been served in Lorain County,” Bradley said.

Bradley said the acquittal was completely unexpected.

Joseph Allen thanked God for bringing the case to an end.

“I didn’t expect it, but I know God is able to do all things.”

Allen was joined by several family members at the hearing, who all seemed to be equally surprised.

“We are just glad it’s over, because it’s been a long time coming,” said Allen’s niece, Dana Capers.

“Thank god it’s over with, I have been praying for it to end and it feels good to see justice and peace,” said another one of Allen’s nieces, Beverly Donald.

Seated next to Allen during the hearing, his attorney, Ronald Bailey, though to himself, “we’re done,” he said after he hearing.

“I thought we would get to this point some day, but I didn’t think it would be today or even this year,” Bailey said, who has been working on Allen’s case since 1997.

“I figured it would be some sort of good news, but I didn’t think it was going to be this good of news,” Bailey said of Burge’s decision.

Smith and her family declined to comment after the hearing.

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