New court motions have been filed in the Logan County criminal cases of Brittany and Joseph Pilkington.
She is the Bellefontaine mom charged with aggravated murder and accused of smothering her three young sons to death over a 14-month period beginning in 2014.
Her husband hasn’t been charged in connection with the children’s deaths, but he faces one count of sexual battery for allegedly beginning his sexual relationship with her when she was a minor after living in her home as a parental figure for years.
Joseph Pilkington’s lawyer has filed four motions, asking the court to move his trial out of Logan County, to disqualify the Logan County Prosecutor’s Office, to dismiss his indictment because of an unconstitutional delay in prosecution and to expand the evidence discovery.
Like his wife’s lawyers have previously argued in a motion to move her death penalty trial, Joseph Pilkington’s defense says extensive media coverage of his case has been prejudicial and should necessitate his trial being moved to another county.
“The case has an unavoidable connection with and attachment to charges against Brittany Pilkington involving the death of the three minor children,” according to the motion. “Local residents will enter consideration of the case with a preconceived idea of this connection.”
They also argue that Logan County Prosecutor Bill Goslee has a conflict of interest in the case because he previously represented Joseph Pilkington in a divorce and child custody case when he was a private practice attorney.
That case overlapped with the time period during which the prosecution claims his crime was committed.
“We assert that nothing could be more adverse than representing a person attempting to get custody of their children… and then prosecuting them for actions taken against another for whom he is accused of being in loco parentis,” the motion says.
In loco parentis is the legal term for acting as a parental figure. Joseph Pilkington was in a relationship with Brittany Pilkington’s mother when his now-wife was still a child. He lived in her home and served as a parental influence, according to prosecutors, then began a sexual relationship with her that resulted in her becoming pregnant with their first child at 17.
The previous county prosecutor examined the case when that pregnancy was discovered but declined to press charges.
Now Joseph Pilkington’s lawyers argue that the six-year delay in charging him with sexual battery should be grounds for throwing out the case. They’d at least like a special prosecutor to look at the case due to Goslee’s alleged conflict of interest.
Goslee did not return a call for comment about the motions.
Joseph Pilkington’s lawyers cite case law where the Ohio Supreme Court found unjustifiable delays in commencing prosecution were just as damaging to a case as delays after indictment.
“(Joseph Pilkington) has not been denied a speedy trial as is defined by the Ohio Constitution,” his lawyer says in the motion, and the statute of limitations for sexual battery is 20 years. But the defense argues that no new information has been introduced in the six years since the alleged crime that would cause charges to be filed now instead of then.
“The prosecution, for whatever reason, chose not to prosecute when the case was fresh, when all evidence was fresh, and when the activities leading to the charge were in the process of occurring,” the motion says.
Another motion asks the prosecutor’s office to turn over all investigative files from when they considered charges against Joseph Pilkington in 2009.
Brittany Pilkington’s lawyers also filed a memorandum asking the judge not to order a competency hearing that has been requested by the prosecution.
They claim she is fully competent to stand trial, having attended six court hearings thus far and demonstrated that she understands the charges against her and the proceedings.
It’s possible her lawyers do not want to subject her to an unnecessary examination when they know she will be found competent, University of Dayton Law Professor Thaddeus Hoffmeister said.
A finding of competency doesn’t preclude her lawyers from raising an insanity defense in the future, he said, although they have not indicated that they plan to pursue one.
The prosecution likely wants an examination because the question of her competency could be raised on appeal, Hoffmeister said.
Her next court date is Feb. 24 when a judge will hear her motion to continue her trial, currently scheduled to begin March 7.
Joseph Pilkington had a pre-trial hearing scheduled for next week, but it has been delayed because of the recent motions. He will next be in court on Feb. 16 for a hearing on these motions.
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