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Nohra pleads not guilty

Group of supporters, including priests, gathered outside county courthouse

WARREN — The former Liberty schools superintendent, accused of bugging a school district office, was arraigned Wednesday on six felony and five misdemeanor charges.

The charges are connected to an investigation conducted by the state auditor’s and Trumbull County prosecutor’s offices.

Nohra, 49, of Topper Hill Drive, Hubbard, appeared with his attorney David Betras and pleaded not guilty to six counts of interception of wire, oral or electronic communications and five counts of interfering with civil rights.

A large contingent of supporters for Nohra were assembled outside the courtroom, but because of COVID-19 restrictions, the group — including two priests — was not allowed inside for the arraignment.

Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Ronald J. Rice released Nohra on a personal bond, but he was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs as sheriff’s deputies took him to the county jail to be booked.

Rice set a pretrial hearing for 9 a.m. June 24.

Court records show Rice was assigned the case after Judge W. Wyatt McKay recused himself because he is the brother-in-law of Trumbull County Assistant Prosecutor Charles Morrow.

According to the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office, the charges deal with Nohra, when he was superintendent, allegedly setting up a hidden surveillance camera and audio above an employee’s desk in the district office.

The allegations came from an investigation initiated by the state auditor’s office that was executed through a search warrant by local authorities at the Liberty schools on March 5, 2019.

Betras, however, said his client was presented with credible evidence that a school employee may have been involved in theft in office. Nohra, with the knowledge and approval of the school board and its legal counsel, initiated his own investigation that resulted in that employee’s resignation, Betras said.

“The actions described in the indictment were conducted in conjunction with and for the sole purpose of facilitating the above-referenced investigation,” Betras stated in a news release.

“The members of the board of education and the board’s legal counsel approved the initiation of an investigation as well as the use of surveillance equipment before it was installed. In addition, written board policy authorizes the superintendent to utilize surveillance equipment when necessary and with approval of the board, which Mr. Nohra sought and received.”

The alleged criminal offenses occurred over a two-week period in April 2018, the prosecutor’s office stated.

Morrow said he would not comment further on the case facts. Nohra resigned as superintendent in June 2020.

The charges against Nohra are fourth-degree felonies, which each carry a potential 18-month prison sentence. The five other counts are first-degree misdemeanors that each carry a potential six-month jail term.

gvogrin@tribtoday.com

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