The most commonly thought of and largest division of the Shelby County Prosecutor’s Office is the Criminal Division. It is the primary responsibility of the Prosecutor’s Office to prosecute adult felony cases and related misdemeanors occurring in Shelby County. Adult felony cases are prosecuted in the Shelby County Court of Common Pleas. These cases range from the felony-5 level up to the felony-1 level and unclassified felonies such as murder. Additionally, the Prosecutor’s Office handles violations of probation and control sanctions in the Common Pleas Court.
The Criminal Division of the Shelby County Prosecutor’s Office handles several hundreds of criminal cases each year involving all levels of felonies as well as murder.
William R. Zimmerman, Jr.
Assistant Shelby County Prosecutor
As a life time resident of Sidney, Ohio, William R. Zimmerman, Jr. is proud to serve as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Shelby County. As the Chief Criminal Assistant Prosecutor for the county, Bill handles all aspects of adult felony prosecutions, including numerous jury trials. Bill is a well versed trial attorney, having gained his experience as a former assistant public defender and private criminal defense attorney in Shelby County. He also serves as the Shelby County Law Librarian and the Village Solicitor for the Villages of Fort Loramie and Port Jefferson.
Bill graduated from Lehman High School in 1997 and is a graduate of Ball State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Political Science in 2001. While in attendance, he also minored in business and theatre. Bill attended Ohio Northern University Pettit College of Law and received his Juris Doctor degree in 2004. Bill was admitted to the Ohio Bar in May 2005. He is also a member and partner of the law firm of Sell, Hegemann & Zimmerman, Co., L.P.A. His practice focuses primarily on domestic relations, guardianship, custody, social security disability appeals, estate and probate planning, landlord/tenant disputes, and general civil litigation.
Bill is an active member of the Shelby County community currently serving on the Holy Angels School Board, the Sidney Visitors Bureau Board, the Lehman High School Alumni Association Board and Raise the Roof for the Arts Board. He is also a past Board member of the Holy Angels Parish Counsel and the Gateway Arts Counsel. Other current involvements include serving as the Executive Director of the 11th Hour Theatre Company and as offensive coordinator for Lehman High School Cavaliers. He also assists in directing the musical at Lehman each year. In 2012, Bill received the Geraldine B. Nelson Advocacy Award given by the Tri-County Board of Recovery and Mental Health Services based on his advocacy in the mental health system. Bill and his wife reside in Sidney with their three daughters.
The Office of the Shelby County Prosecutor represents the State of Ohio at Grand Jury proceedings by presenting evidence and instructing the Grand Jury on issues of law. The Grand Jury is the first stage of felony prosecutor in the State of Ohio and is composed of nine persons selected at random from the public. Each Grand Jury serves for four consecutive months and typically meets every three weeks in Shelby County. The Grand Jury is a secret proceeding which decides whether there is sufficient evidence to formally charge or indict an adult with a felony charge.
Prosecutors also handle felony arraignments where the Judge informs the recently indicted defendants that charges have been filed against them via indictment. Here, bond and affiliated conditions are addressed by the Prosecutor and counsel for the defendant.
Following arraignments in all felony cases, the Court schedules the matter for an initial pretrial and a final pretrial. Initial pretrials are typically the first opportunity for the Prosecutor to discuss the case with the defense counsel and are typically held outside of open court. Pretrials also provide a time for prosecutors to meet with victims to discuss the case if the victims have opted to be directly involved in the case. Final pretrials are much of the same but frequently resolve themselves via a change of plea. If not, the final pretrial will take place in open court and the counsel for defendant and the Prosecutor will formally address any legal and procedural questions surrounding the pending jury trial.
When motions are filed that require evidentiary hearings, the most common being a motion to suppress evidence, the Prosecutor’s Office will appear at all such hearings, present evidence and argue the State’s position to the Court.
Change of Plea
The bulk of all felony cases are ultimately resolved by plea bargaining, which results in a change of plea. At the change of plea hearing, the defendant enters a guilty plea after having had a chance to review the evidence, file motions and weigh the case against him or her. The Prosecutor appears at each change of plea hearing to ensure the matter is handled appropriately on behalf of the State of Ohio.
The most important and skilled responsibility of prosecutors in the Criminal Division is the preparation and presentation of cases that go to trial. At trial, in order for a criminal defendant to be found guilty, the prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt to judge or jury. Preparing for trial typically is very involved—meeting with victims, witnesses and law enforcement as well as devoting time to organizing and planning all aspects of the presentation of the case to the jury.
After a defendant has been found guilty either at trial or via a plea, a sentencing hearing is held. The Prosecutor appears at each sentencing hearing at which time the Prosecutor presents arguments and comments as to the sentencing of the defendant on behalf of the State of Ohio and the victim in the case, if applicable.
If the outcome of a case (usually one that has gone to trial) is thought by a party to be incorrect or unjust, that party may file an appeal to the Court of Appeals to address their claimed issue. In Shelby County, the Appeals District is the Third District, which is physically located in Lima, Ohio. In order to file an appeal or respond to one, the Prosecutor’s Office will draft a brief to be filed with the Court of Appeals and may also appear before the Appeals Court to make an oral argument on the issue. The Appellant Division’s chief role is to represent the county before the Third District Court of Appeals, the Ohio Supreme Court, and the United States Supreme Court. Every person convicted of a crime is entitled to at least one appeal, as a matter of right, to the Third District Court of Appeals.