John Schlosser has already served 24 years of a 40- to 58-year prison sentence.
He was convicted of running a telemarketing scam that defrauded 11 victims of less than $2,000 combined in Montgomery County. Montgomery County prosecutors alleged more than 2,000 people were victimized, but harm to those customers was never proven at trial.
Schlosser’s attorney David Singleton of the Ohio Justice & Policy Center plans to use his story to launch a new project this week called Beyond Guilt, which Singleton hopes to build into a national network similar to Innocence Projects across the country.
“The mission of Beyond Guilt is to transform our punitive legal system to one focused on justice, redemption, and humanity for those over-punished,” the new group says.
Singleton, who is also a law professor at Northern Kentucky University, said Beyond Guilt legal clinics will start in Ohio and then Kentucky and focus on identifying and telling the stories of prisoners who illustrate problems with the criminal legal system.
The Ohio Innocence Project, a legal clinic at the University of Cincinnati, has freed 24 wrongfully convicted prisoners, mostly by getting crime scene evidence tested for DNA.
Beyond Guilt will not have scientific proof — DNA test results — of an injustice. Singleton said he will rely on story-telling to convince the public and officeholders to make reforms.
“While challenging, this is the most exciting aspect of the project: the prospect of convincing the public that we must reform sentencing for people convicted of violent crime,” Singleton said. “The primary way we will do this is through storytelling. Almost everyone who hears Mr. Schlosser’s story looks at me in disbelief. But frankly, we are wanting to focus this project primarily on people who have been convicted of violent crimes. They too, have stories of injustice to tell.”
Shortly after Schlosser’s conviction, state law changed, making penalties for his crimes less severe. In 2016, the 38 prisoners whose most serious offense matched Schlosser’s were sentenced on average to seven years in prison.
“Mr. Schlosser has already served as much, if not more, time than the average term served by prisoners whose most serious offense was murder,” his attorneys argue in pleadings for judicial relief from his lengthy sentence.
Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck’s office is opposing efforts to lessen Schlosser’s sentence. Schlosser, now 75, is slated to see the Ohio Parole Board for the first time in January 2022.
Heck spokesman Greg Flannagan said Schlosser’s sentence was “well within” the sentencing range and has been upheld by the 2nd District Court of Appeals.
“At this time, the trial court lacks any authority to reduce the defendant’s sentence,” he said. Flannagan added that the 11 victims represented a sample of those scammed by Schlosser.
“Make no mistake — this defendant is a dangerous criminal who seriously harmed and duped many people. He should serve his entire sentence,” Flanagan said.
Also, Flanagan said that Schlosser threatened the case investigator and his family — a claim Singleton says is false.
Singleton said “At a cost of nearly $25,000 a year, the state has now spent over $600,000 incarcerating John Schlosser these past 25 years. So, keeping him behind also makes no fiscal sense.”
Schlosser also pleaded guilty to one federal count of money laundering in 1995 and was sentenced to 41 months in prison in a case in which federal prosecutors claimed he bilked more than 37,000 people nationwide out of more than $2 million in his telemarketing scheme.
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