Steve Abshear, candidate for Juvenile Court Judge — with his lovely wife, Ashley, and their two children

Yesterday, I received in the mail the flyer sent by the Montgomery County Democratic Party urging Democrats to vote for the candidates the Party endorsed for judge. I am an elected member of the Montgomery County Democratic Party Central Committee but in the contest for Juvenile Court Judge, I am disregarding the Party’s endorsement of Julie Bruns and, instead, I am voting for my friend Steve Abshire .

I’ve known Steve now for ten years and over the years, I’ve been positively impressed by his character and temperament and his compassion for the welfare of youth. The following is from Steve’s website: 

Steve advocated for children as a Montgomery County assistant prosecuting attorney. Steve litigated cases involving abused, neglected and dependent children and worked closely with caseworkers and juvenile court staff to ensure the best resolution for children.

 

Steve also served as the supervising attorney at the CARE House, Montgomery County’s child advocacy center, and helped abused children by coordinating the investigation and treatment of child sexual abuse and providing children and families access to long-term advocacy and healthcare.

 

Steve continues to work with families in juvenile court, focusing his law practice exclusively in family law. Steve also serves families in his role as Guardian Ad Litem by helping families resolve their parenting disputes in a safe and healthy manner for the children.

 

David Bruns and Julie Bruns, with their two daughters between them

The Central Committee of the Montgomery County Democratic Party pretty much rubber stamps whomever County Prosecutor Mat Heck recommends for county judgeships. Julie Bruns is a second cousin of County Prosecutor Mat Heck and has worked for Heck since 1994. In 2005, Julie was appointed as Chief of the Juvenile Division of the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office. Julie, by all accounts, is highly regarded and professional. But her relation with Heck must have been strained in 2016 when it was revealed that her husband, David, also employed in the Prosecutor’s Office had, for four years, been stealing money from the Prosecutor’s Office. Julie, herself, was investigated and was absolved of any responsibility for the crime.

In 2016 David Bruns was convicted of stealing $89,976.46 from the Prosecutor’s Office. David was sentenced to 36 months in prison — He served four months. While incarcerated in the Montgomery County jail, a visiting judge gave David the rare privilege of a 24 hour pass out of jail to attend his daughter’s high school graduation. 

The following is excerpted from an article published in the Dayton Daily News on March 24, 2017 — written by Mark Gokavi.

Anatomy of a scam: How a crime-fighting office became a crime victim

It took more than four years before David Bruns was caught stealing from the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s office.

 

For more than four years, David Bruns was regularly stealing from his employer, funneling money into a house-flipping business and spending the rest on guns, hunting gear, a TV set and frequent lunches. He hid it from other employees in the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s office where he worked, and even from his wife Julie, who is an assistant prosecutor in the office.

 

When he was finally caught, Bruns had stolen roughly $90,000.

 

Bruns, 48, is serving a four-month sentence in the Montgomery County Jail for theft in office and tampering with government records, both third-degree felonies. Visiting retired Judge Linton Lewis of Perry County suspended 32 months of a 36-month sentence provided Bruns paid back the money. Bruns took nearly $40,000 out of his Ohio Employee Retirement System account to complete restitution.

 

The records, criminal case files obtained using Ohio open records laws, show Julie Bruns twice transferred large sums of money from the family’s bank account into an account her husband set up for Skyfall Properties LLC, a business he created in April 2015 to flip houses.

 

Julie Bruns, who is a second cousin of Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck Jr. and chief of the office’s juvenile division, knew nothing of the thefts, according to the records. When she asked her husband on occasion where he was getting excess money he made up an explanation, including hitting it big gambling, he told investigators.

 

“There were a couple times when Julie would ask, because I’d be like, I’d have some money and then say, ‘Oh, you know. I made some bet on a football game,’ in which I didn’t,” David Bruns told investigators. “That was an excuse I could say to have the money. But I wasn’t like flashing it around or anything.”

 

Bruns’ pay was $27,140 last year, according to Montgomery County payroll data obtained by this newspaper. He was paid $40,034 in 2015, including a $4,090 longevity bonus. He was paid $36,334 in 2014, including a $1,494 bonus.

 

From early 2012 until August 2016, Bruns was able to steal $89,976.46. About 15 times, he skimmed a few hundred dollars off of money people deposited in foreclosure proceedings. About three or four other times, Bruns said, he would set up Skyfall to be reimbursed $2,000 from foreclosure sale overages he wasn’t due. Victims included numerous area residents, businesses and a church-backed community development corporation, the investigation found.

 

Investigator Kerry Smoot interviewed Julie Bruns and concluded she had no knowledge of her husband’s activities, motive or what he was doing with Skyfall. “She explained that David always wanted to flip homes,” Smoot wrote. “She was first initially reluctant but finally approved to do so.”

 

Her husband didn’t gamble often, Julie Bruns told Smoot, but “on occasion he would say he hit it big gambling,” Smoot’s interview notes say.

 

Julie Bruns has worked for Heck — a cousin of her mother — since 1994. She is currently chief of the office’s juvenile division and was paid $101,674 last year, including a $12,900 longevity bonus.

 

On two occasions, Julie Bruns told Smoot she transferred money from the family’s bank into the Skyfall account to help fund the remodeling for the house. Work stopped, she said, when mold was found.

 

In one exchange with a prosecutor’s office investigator, David Bruns was asked where he kept the money.

 

Bruns responded, “In my pocket … no.”

 

The investigator said, “You’ve got big pockets.”

 

Bruns responded: “I have a little safe downstairs.”

 

As for what he spent the money on, Bruns estimated $9,000 on six guns, about $1,000 on hunting gear, $500 to sponsor a team in a golf scramble, $2,000 on a television, and so on.

 

“It’s probably spent,” he said of the rest, adding that he often went out to lunch. He said he also spent $1,600 as a class trip sponsor — not for his children, but for five other kids. “Unfortunately,” Bruns said, his voice cracking. “That’s probably about the only good thing that’s going to come out of this.”

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