Zach Smith, the wide receivers coach at Ohio State was charged with criminal trespassing earlier this year. He appeared in Delaware Municipal Court on Wednesday, July 18, where the case was continued for a final pretrial hearing. Smith previously entered a not guilty plea on June 5.
According to the Powell Police Department, the charge stems from a call from Smith’s ex-wife, Courtney Smith made on May 12 when Smith dropped his son off at her apartment, per their shared parenting plan.
While the police report states that Smith was arrested, his attorney Brad Koffel says that he was only cited, not arrested.
According to Koffel, the case revolves around whether or not Smith was allowed to go to his ex-wife’s apartment to drop off their son. According to the shared parenting plan he can. While a police officer informed Smith that he was no longer allowed to drop his son off at his ex-wife’s apartment about five months ago, this instruction is not binding and does not override the terms in their parenting agreement.
“They pick up and drop off like every other divorced family,” Koffel said. “They said, ‘He was told by one of our officers five months ago not to drop off at her apartment.’ I said that’s not enough to override a domestic-court order on where he’s allowed to drop off or pick up his kids. It’s a court order that controls this.”
According to Koffel, Smith called his ex-wife on May 12 to ask where he should drop off their son.
“He’s just following what he’s supposed to do as a noncustodial parent,” Koffel said. “She decided, with little or no notice, ‘Don’t drop our son off at my place.’ He said, ‘Where do I drop him off?’”
Koffel said that Smith didn’t get an answer right away, and weighed his decisions – wait for an answer from his ex-wife and risk going over the court order’s time limit for when he needs to drop off his son, or drop him off at her apartment to make sure his son is where the judge ruled he needed to be.
“He’s on the clock” for returning his son, Koffel said. “He’s like, ‘You know what, I’m going to drop him off at your place. No harm, no foul.’ She took exception to that and called the Powell Police Department. There were no threats. He never got out of his car. They weren’t even in an argument.”
While Koffel hoped that the case would have been dismissed on Wednesday, that didn’t happen after media outlets published reports about Smith’s case shortly before his appearance in court.
"Zach was returning his [8-year-old] son to his ex-wife, which had previously been agreed upon," Koffel said in an interview aired on WTVN. "The exact location of the drop-off hadn't been discussed. They were texting each other as to where to meet. She told them to meet at their apartment complex clubhouse. He drove there. She wasn't there, and he dropped the son at her apartment. She was waiting for him with her cell phone out, and took a picture of him in her driveway. He left and she called the Powell police and said it was trespassing.
"She never presented the shared parenting plan to the police department. She never presented the shared parenting plan to the Delaware prosecutor's office. A criminal complaint was filed against Zach. He was never arrested. He went to Powell PD and picked up the criminal trespass complaint. At no point did he ever violate the shared parenting plan. And we entered a not guilty (plea) on June 5."
According to Koffel, Smith is worried about the potential damage his reputation could suffer in the wake of this case.
“He’s just beside himself,” Koffel said. “He didn’t do anything illegal, and now it’s coming out that he’s some sort of wife-beater, trespasser, whatever. The inferences being drawn from the headlines are horrible.”
Shared parenting plans are designed to give both parents clear instructions on how to manage caring for their child or children, and when one parent decides to change the rules without warning, it puts the other parent at an unfair disadvantage. When these last-minute changes lead to criminal charges and headlines in the news, it puts that parent in an unfair position. At Koffel Brininger Nesbitt, we are committed to defending the rights of individuals charged with a crime, and will fight to secure the legal outcome they deserve. Call us at (614) 675-4845 today if you are interested in speaking with a Columbus criminal defense lawyer, or fill out our online form to send us the details of your situation.