Ex-parole board member denies he used position to get out of drunken driving charge

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COLUMBUS – A fired parole board member – accused of using his official position in a failed effort to get out of a drunken driving charge – denied to 10 Investigates that he abused his authority and is expected to go to on trial later this month.

But others disagree with Michael H. Jackson.

They include a state trooper, a judge and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction – the agency who fired him.

And they point to dash camera video as proof.

Jackson, who served on the parole board from 2013 to 2018, was fired from his job in February of this year, according to a copy of his termination letter obtained by 10 Investigates.

The letter states: “You are being removed for violating the standards of employee conduct: Rule 16-Misusing official position for personal gain.” The letter goes on to state, “you attempted to use your official position with the parole board and ODRC to influence the arresting officer…”

Jackson, who is charged with OVI and other traffic violations, was arrested on November 12, 2017. He is scheduled to go to trial on June 18.

Dash camera video recorded by Ohio State Highway Patrol – and obtained by 10 Investigates – shows Jackson referenced his job with the state at least three times while Trooper Steven Mahl was conducting a traffic stop in east Franklin County.

Jackson initially refused to take a field sobriety test but after learning he was going to be placed under arrest, he agreed.

Mahl said: “I've asked you, you said you didn't want to do any test.”

Jackson: “Well because I'm...because I work for the governor's office they are always telling me don't do that kind of stuff, try to just get out of it and see if you can go home. I'm right here at the house."

A spokesman for Governor John Kasich denied knowing Jackson in an emailed response to 10 Investigates. The statement went on to say Jackson’s "comments are false and ridiculous. Moreover, the only guidance we have on drinking and driving is to follow the law and not to do it."

Earlier in the traffic stop, dash camera video shows Jackson showed Mahl his badge. Mahl can be heard asking: “Where’s that badge come back to Mike?”

Jackson says: “Adult Parole Authority.”

Mahl: “The Parole Authority?”

Mahl then asks Jackson how much he’d had to drink that night. That portion of the audio from that dash camera provided to 10 Investigates was redacted. But during an April court hearing, Mahl testified that Jackson admitted to consuming between two to three drinks before getting behind the wheel of his Ford F-150.

Earlier in the traffic stop, the dash camera video shows Mahl asks Jackson to step out of his truck. At that point, Jackson says: “Really?” And again references that “I’m with state parole.”

Jackson hung up on a 10 Investigates reporter Friday, but during a brief interview before his most recent court appearance in late April, Jackson denied abusing his position, despite dash camera video that shows he referenced his position with the trooper.

When asked by a 10 Investigates reporter if he was attempting to get out of the OVI arrest, Jackson said: “No, that’s not the case… now whether I was afraid or tongue-tied possibly, but that’s not the case.”

When asked directly by a reporter: “Are you saying you didn’t say that?”

Jackson said: “I'm saying that's not what was intended. If that is what came out I am not certain.”

But Judge James O’Grady said during that April 25 hearing that he thought Jackson’s intentions were clear.

“To put forth, you know, I'm in law enforcement, I have a badge, I work for the governor, that is...it's clear why that was done. I have no doubt in my mind. That was absolutely done to ‘we're on the same side - gimme a break and let me go.’”

Calls and emails placed with Jackson’s attorney Thursday and Friday were not returned. A clerk tells 10 Investigates Jackson’s trial is still set for June 18.

Jackson becomes the third parole member to leave the parole board since February.

Two others – Richard Cholar Jr. and Andre Imbrogno – have also left the parole board in recent months. Cholar could not be reached.

Imbrogno, who remains with ODRC’s legal services division, declined to answer a reporter’s questions. He referred questions to an ODRC spokeswoman.

An ODRC spokeswoman did reply back to 10 Investigates saying that one board member had been re-assigned and the other’s term was not renewed. No further explanation was given.