Appeals court reverses killer’s conviction

By Mac Cordell

March 12, 2014

An appeals court has overturned the conviction of a former London man who allegedly killed two people in a drunk-driving crash on state Route 142.

The Ohio 12th District Court of Appeals announced this week it had unanimously reversed the conviction of Timothy S. Ackley, 34. Judges sent Ackley’s case back to the Madison County Common Pleas Court.

The appeals court ruled Ackley’s 2012 guilty plea “was not constitutional.”

In October 2012, Ackley pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, stemming from the April 7, 2012 deaths of Mark and Jo Ann Williams. The West Jefferson couple was heading home from an afternoon baptism at Madison Lake, when Ackley’s westbound pickup truck allegedly crossed the center line and collided head-on with their motorcycle. Mr. Williams was driving; Mrs. Williams was riding on the back.

Investigators said Ackley was drunk at the time of the crash. The couple died at the scene.

Ackley was given a maximum sentence — a total of 16 years for the double conviction. Prosecutors and the judge said Ackley’s behavior after the crash led to the maximum sentence.

Ackley told the first witnesses on the scene he was doing fine and was calling for help. He made no mention of the dead bodies under his truck.

Investigators believe Ackley planned to flee the scene.

Witnesses eventually spotted the motorcycle and bodies and called for help. Investigators said Ackley laughed about killing the pair and made sexist and racist comments about the victims at the scene.

“This is one of the most callous crimes we have ever seen,” said Madison County Prosecutor Stephen Pronai

As his trial approached, defense attorneys argued Ackley had not been properly “Mirandized” or informed of his constitutional rights at the time of his arrest.

Moments before his trial was set to begin, Ackley changed his mind and entered the guilty plea.

“Ackley pled guilty to the two charges but was not told at the plea hearing that he would face mandatory prison time,” according to the court of appeals. “Instead, the trial court inaccurately told Ackley that it was possible that he would receive probation instead of prison time.”

Ackley argued his conviction was not constitutional because he was never told he would face mandatory prison time.

“His decision to enter a plea kind of caught everybody off guard,” said Pronai. “Everybody missed this — the judge, (the assistant prosecutor), the defense attorney.”

The case now faces procedural questions. Because Common Pleas Court Judge Eamon Costello was the assistant prosecutor at the time and prosecuted the case, he will need to recuse himself from the case. It is unknown whether Costello will be able to appoint a defense attorney and address Ackley’s potential bond request, or whether Costello will need to apply to the State Supreme Court for a replacement judge before any action is taken in the case.

“We know at some point, he will be transferred back to Tri-County (Regional Jail) and then we will start the process all over again,” said Pronai.

Ackley has a criminal record dating to age 13, including multiple drunk driving convictions and a previous four-year prison sentence.

Mac Cordell can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 21 or on Twitter @MacCordell.