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Tyrone Zinkiewicz

Other Ohio No Crime Cases
In July 1988, police in Montgomery County, Ohio executed a search warrant at the home of 38-year-old Tyrone Zinkiewicz, a photographer for Metra, an adult magazine that catered to gay men. Zinkiewicz turned over three nude photographs, which he said a 20-year-old man had given him for safekeeping.

Two months later, in September 1988, Zinkiewicz was indicted by a grand jury in Montgomery County, Ohio, on charges of taking nude photographs of a juvenile and child endangerment. The youth was actually 17 years old and a juvenile under Ohio law.

In November 1988, while Zinkiewicz was awaiting trial, the youth was charged in juvenile court with delinquency for aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, obstructing justice, and the rape and kidnapping of a man from Dayton, Ohio. The youth was found delinquent on the kidnapping and burglary charges, the other charges were dismissed and he was sentenced to the Ohio Department of Youth Service, where he spent 17 months.

Three of the youth’s accomplices, who were adults, also were indicted on similar charges, but ultimately those charges were dismissed when all three pled guilty to attempted burglary and were each sentenced to a year in prison.

Zinkiewicz went on trial in December 1988. The youth testified that he met Zinkiewicz in a bar and told him he was interested in amateur modeling. The youth told the jury that Zinkiewicz knew he was a juvenile. He testified that he came to Zinkiewicz’s home in Dayton, Ohio in May 1988 and that Zinkiewicz took nude photographs of him.

Montgomery County Sheriff’s detective Patricia Matheny testified that the youth was referred to her by another detective, Herschel Caudill. The youth showed Matheny two nude photographs, which he said Zinkiewicz had taken. He said that there were more nude photographs of him in Zinkiewicz’s home.

Zinkiewicz’s attorney, Dennis Bailey, sought to cross-examine the youth about a tape-recording of a telephone call the youth made from Zinkiewicz’s home a few weeks after the photographs were taken.

Bailey argued to the judge that when they met, the youth told Zinkiewicz that he was 20, not 17, and that he showed Zinkiewicz an ID card that indicated he was 20 years old. Bailey told the judge that when the youth came to Zinkiewicz’s home in May 1988, he was accompanied by two other men, and that they asked Zinkiewicz to allow them to use his cameras privately at his in-home studio. After they left, Zinkiewicz developed the photographs and saw that they included nude photographs of the youth.

Bailey also claimed that on June 23, 1988, more than a month after the first visit, the youth and another man came to Zinkiewicz’s home. He said they asked if they could stay there for a few hours because someone was trying to get them into trouble and they needed to sleep because they had been up all night.

Zinkiewicz allowed them to stay, and while they were sleeping a man called and asked for the youth. Zinkiewicz woke the youth, but before he handed over the phone, he pressed the “record” button on the telephone answering machine.

The tape of the conversation revealed that the youth and the man who called discussed how they had beaten and raped a man and left him tied up. They also discussed several break-ins they had committed and that they needed to steal a car and commit some robberies to get cash so they could leave the area. When the youth’s companion noticed that the “record” light was on, he disconnected the phone call and demanded the tape be erased. Zinkiewicz pushed several buttons and claimed the conversation was erased, but in fact it was not.

The youth returned to Zinkiewicz’s house again three days later, on June 26, and demanded the tape. Zinkiewicz played a blank tape and claimed that was the tape that had been erased. The youth threatened to firebomb Zinkiewicz’s house if he went to police, and then handed Zinkiewicz nude photographs of himself and asked Zinkiewicz to keep them for him because he did not want his younger brother to find them.

A few weeks later, the youth came under suspicion in the assault and rape as well as the break-ins. At that time, he told Detective Herschel Caudill that Zinkiewicz had photographed him in the nude, in the hope of deflecting police attention away from himself and toward Zinkiewicz. That ploy succeeded in police focusing attention on Zinkiewicz, but did not deflect attention from the youth and his accomplices.

Bailey contended that the youth left the nude photographs of himself at Zinkiewicz’s house so that he could falsely implicate Zinkiewicz in the hope police would not pursue the rape and kidnapping investigation. Bailey argued that the tape recording of the youth’s conversation about the rape, assault and break-ins undermined the youth’s testimony.

The trial judge denied Bailey’s motion. He ruled that the sensational nature of the tape, including the youth’s admission to participating in a homosexual rape, would unfairly prejudice the jury against the youth. The judge also forbade Bailey from asking the youth about the firebombing threat.

Zinkiewicz testified in his own behalf and told the jury that he believed the youth was 20 years old and that he did not take the nude photographs of the youth. Those photographs, according to Zinkiewicz, were taken by man who was with the youth when they came to use Zinkiewicz’s studio privately. Zinkiewicz said that after he developed the film from that session, he gave all the photographs to the youth. Zinkiewicz said that he later came to believe that the youth’s claim that he brought the photographs back to keep his brother from finding them was a ruse to cover up his true intention, to frame Zinkiewicz.

In December 1988, the jury convicted Zinkiewicz of taking nude photographs of a juvenile and child endangerment. The judge dismissed the child endangerment charge as not supported by the evidence and sentenced Zinkiewicz to five to 15 years in prison.

Zinkiewicz’s conviction was upheld by the Ohio Court of Appeals, over a strongly worded dissent. The dissenting judge harshly criticized detective Matheny for making false representations and omissions in the application for the search warrant, and for failing to disclose that the youth was being investigated for numerous serious crimes at the time he made his allegation against Zinkiewicz. The dissent noted that Matheny made no attempt to verify the youth’s claims about Zinkiewicz, or to learn why another detective had been talking to the youth. The dissenting judge said, “The result was to paint a picture of an innocent victim who is more deserving of belief than the subject of a criminal investigation who is trading information to help himself.”

Zinkiewicz then filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. In June 1991, U.S. Magistrate Michael Merz recommended that the writ be issued and Zinkiewicz’s conviction vacated. “If defense counsel had been permitted to cross-examine (the youth) about his involvement in an act of homosexual rape, various burglaries and his plan to steal an automobile and snatch purses to raise money to elude the police, it would undoubtedly have seriously undermined the state’s case,” Merz ruled.

In January 1992, U.S. District Judge Walter Rice adopted Merz’s recommendation and issued the writ. Zinkiewicz was released on bond on January 29, 1992. The prosecution dismissed the charge in May 1992.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 10/25/2014
Most Serious Crime:Other Nonviolent Felony
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1988
Sentence:5 to 15 years
Age at the date of reported crime:38
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No