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Wendell Young pleads no contest to lesser charge in text message case

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Sarah Ramsey
/
WVXU

Cincinnati Council Member Wendell Young pleaded no contest Wednesday to a misdemeanor charge of obstructing official business. Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Ruehlman ordered Young to pay a $100 fine.

The case was originally a felony charge of tampering with records after Young deleted text messages in the "Gang of Five" case more than three years ago. Young pleaded not guilty to the felony charge filed by Special Prosecutor Patrick Hanley in April.

The felony charge would have carried a maximum sentence of three years in prison. The misdemeanor charge had a possible punishment of up to 90 days in jail and up to a $750 fine.

The charge stems from text messages exchanged between Young and four other council members in 2018. The group discussed and made decisions about city business, in violation of Ohio's Sunshine Law.

Hanley says Young further violated the law by deleting some of those text messages. Young told several local media outlets he deleted the messages before an order not to do so, and after turning them over to the city solicitor's office and seeing them published in the media.

Young was not immediately available for comment through his attorney.

In May, Council Member Betsy Sundermann attempted to have Young suspended from council because of the felony indictment, but the council vote was one short of the supermajority needed for suspension.

About a month later, a special commission of three retired judges decided against suspension.

Young has served on council for 11 years and will end his final term this month. Term limits prevented him from running for re-election.

Corrected: December 1, 2021 at 5:21 PM EST
A previous headline and lede of this article misstated Young's plea. It has been corrected.