Deters is Master of Manipulation
Few politicians are as adroit at hogging the spotlight as Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters. His performance last week, after the death of 3-year-old Marcus Fiesel came to light, was especially exploitive.
Investigators apparently made apt use of the grand jury to force out the truth about what happened to the missing child: He had been killed. Indictments initially handed up Aug. 28 charged Marcus’ foster parents with involuntary manslaughter and child endangering. The little boy died in their home in Union Township, in Clermont County, according to Deters. That’s when his involvement should have ended.
But Deters knew this case was bound to evoke public outrage, and he played it to the hilt, announcing Aug. 29 that murder indictments would be sought. That’s an odd thing to do, because the homicide allegedly occurred outside his jurisdiction. Deters knew the case would have to go to Clermont County.
But still he didn’t stop. The next day, Aug. 30, Deters announced that he wanted, but couldn’t pursue, the death penalty for the foster parents. As quoted in The Cincinnati Post, Deters said, “Would we like to give them the death penalty? Yes, we would. But you can’t indict someone for the death penalty just because you want them to get the death penalty.”
What purpose then was served by Deters saying he’d like to use the death penalty? Nothing but to stir up the public. Nothing but to enhance his own standing as someone who’s tough on crime.
It wasn’t until two days later, on Sept. 1, that Deters admitted what he must have known all week: Not only wouldn’t he be seeking the death penalty, but he wouldn’t be prosecuting the homicide charges at all. At a press conference with Clermont County Prosecutor Donald White, Deters said the case would next go to Clermont County, its proper jurisdiction.
White gushed about how well Deters had handled the media all week, unintentionally pointing to his grandstanding performance.
“Joe’ll be handling all the PR,” White said.
Pressed to explain why the homicide case was being transferred to Clermont County, while lesser charges will remain in Hamilton County. Deters said, “The last thing we want is a technicality and have these two walk.”
But Deters still hadn’t exhausted his camera-ready outrage. He next targeted Marcus’ birth mother, addressing the issue of whether she might file a lawsuit over her son’s death.
“I’m just sickened that people keep using Marcus as a check. … She should mourn her child, but to angle this for money is outrageous,” Deters said.
Angling this tragedy for political points, however, is quite all right.
— Gregory Flannery