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Your Digital Source for Zanesville News

Y-City News

Your Digital Source for Zanesville News

Y-City News

Sills acquitted, special prosecutors refuse to explain timeline, details of charges

Special Prosecutors William Walton (left) and Erik Spitzer (right) from the Attorney General’s Special Prosecutions Section who litigated the criminal case against Sills.

Friday afternoon, surrounded by family, Josh Sills was acquitted of rape and kidnapping by a jury of his peers in Guernsey County, finally ending a nearly four-year ordeal for the local football star and offensive lineman for the Philadelphia Eagles, from an alleged incident in late 2019.

While the matter for Sills may finally be over, the situation surrounding his criminal charges, just days before the Super Bowl, and nearly two years after special prosecutors took over the case, has left many questions unanswered with officials declining to explain themselves or comment further.

When Y-City News reported on the indictment of Sills in an investigative piece earlier this year, we discovered allegations that the alleged victim, or an associate of hers, was threatening to expose inaction on the case, what we discovered leading up to the trial was even more alarming, bets appear to have been made against the Eagles moments after the indictment was filed, potentially with that privileged information, likewise, bets against the team also seem to have materialized after a press release notifying the media, and soon after the public at large, of the charges against Sills, who would have attended Super Bowl LVII, but was unlikely to have received any playing time during the most watched game of the year.

The matter of sports betting, which just became legal this year in the Buckeye State, has been the target of criminal inquiries by various federal agencies in both previous and ongoing investigations in the Northern and Southern Districts of Ohio. It is not publically known if this matter is one of those ongoing inquiries, federal authorities declined to comment.

After a week-long trial at the Guernsey County Courthouse, in front of Judge Daniel Padden, which began with jury selection at the Pritchard Laughlin Civic Center with 100 prospective jurors, Josh Sills was found not guilty Friday afternoon. He was facing both a felony rape and kidnapping charge, each of which would have sent him away for many years, if he had been convicted.

According to both court testimony and documents obtained previously by Y-City News, Sills was accused of forcing the alleged victim to perform oral sex on him. The two had known each other previously and Sills had met up with her and her cousin at their last stop out while bar hopping, at RJs in Mt. Ephraim. While there, it was presented to the jury that the victim and Sills kissed consensually and that Sills bought the girls shots and after leaving at closing time, drove the two home, but not before they both flashed him.

Once at the residence, the cousin went inside with the alleged victim saying to her that she would be in shortly, leaving her and Sills alone in the truck.

According to police reports, the victim told authorities that Sills restrained her and forced her to perform oral sex on him, Sills’ defense attorneys argued it was consensual. The alleged incident is said to have occurred at around 2 a.m. on December 5, 2019.

While many details were shared during the trial, one particular discrepancy was that the victim went from originally telling authorities that Sills had placed his hand around her neck to at trial saying that he choked her so hard that it ultimately made her pass out from the alleged strangulation. Both the prosecution and defense presented witnesses and evidence both for and against the argument that the victim was choked.

After the encounter, the alleged victim went inside. Sometime in the following hours, when it was daylight, the cousin reported seeing the victim ‘upset and shook up.’

The victim contacted her mother, who was a Sexual Assult Nurse Examiner (SANE) at Southeastern Regional Medical Center in Cambridge to report the alleged assault. The mother then contacted one of her coworkers, another SANE nurse at the hospital, before bringing her daughter in nearly 20 hours after the assault was alleged to have occurred, to that same nurse for examination.

In the police report, the deputy stated that the nurse at the hospital discovered bruising in the back of the victim’s throat, as one of her listed injuries, but the difficulty in giving that evidence credibility is that bruising in the back of the throat, often on the soft palate, is consistent with consensual as well as nonconsensual oral sexual intercourse. The SANE nurse also, as alleged by the defense, failed to follow the proper established protocols while conducting the examination and allowed the mother to be present during the process.

It was revealed during the trial that law enforcement also failed to conduct a thorough investigation, again as argued by the defense, which included failing to collect surveillance camera footage from the various establishments that the girls had visited previously that night, including at RJs where the victim was said to have consensually kissed Sills, as well as to collect cell phones and online digital messages maintained with Snapchat before the records became unrecoverable, which the defense argued would have aided their case that the encounter was consensual.

The case was investigated by the Guernsey County Sheriff’s Office, but according to former elected County Prosecutor Joel Blue, it was determined in 2020 that the victim had a family relation to local law enforcement which created a conflict for his office to proceed with prosecution, thus they requested special prosecutors be assigned to the case.

Blue served from 2017 through 2020, having been defeated in the 2020 Republican Primary by now serving elected County Prosecutor Lindsey Angler, who took office in 2021, causing the case to span two separate political administrations. A request to the Attorney General’s Office for special prosecutors was made on September 18, 2020, and soon prosecutors with the Special Prosecutions Section took control of the case.

According to redacted police logs, supplemental narratives were added to the case by those with the Guernsey County Sheriff’s Office through February 11, 2021, all of which were entirely redacted when released to the media.

As previously reported by Y-City News, earlier this year when we questioned the Ohio Attorney General’s Office as to the timing of the indictment, less than two weeks before the upcoming Super Bowl, in which Sills was set to attend, the office’s media representative declined to comment farther. The indictment was brought nearly two years after the case was handed over for special prosecution. Analyzing grand jury indictments for Guernsey County, we determined that the case was brought before a normally convened grand jury in which other defendants were indicted, though not by those with the AG’s Office.

When first reporting the story, multiple allegations were made to us that the victim, or someone close to her, threatened to go public about what she alleged had happened to her and the inaction of prosecutors – there is no indication she desired or demanded money from Sills.

If the AG’s Office was pressured to bring charges in such a coincidental alignment to the Super Bowl, it doesn’t seem they did so reluctantly or without the knowledge that their alleged suspect was a member of the National Football League (NFL). The office capitalized on the namesake of Sills’ and the national attention they knew it would bring, using its media contact list to blast the release to reporters across the state and country. The email to reporters and press release posted on the Attorney General’s website mentioned that Sills was ‘an offensive guard for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles,’ a position he had at the time just recently been accepted into, not one he held when the alleged crime occurred.

Attorney General Dave Yost, a likely Republican contender for governor in 2026, has also been attempting to revamp his image after comments he made alleging that a 10-year-old Ohioan, who received an abortion in another state, after being raped, did not exist. The charges that were filed against Sills and the publicity of the indictment were likely an attempt to use what he or someone in his office knew would be a high-profile case to distract from the previous blunder.

More troubling, Y-City News recently discovered bets were made against the Eagles around the same time his indictment was submitted to the court, but not publically known. Both raw sport betting data and media coverage convey the sway in bets, though it appears we are the first to publically link the two events. Likewise, there is evidence to suggest that the onslaught of news coverage about Sills’ indictment also temporarily affected bets as it was assumed the negative news would for a short period of time affect odds in the forthcoming game, regardless of if Sills would have received any playing time in the big game.

The legalization of sports betting in Ohio has had a troubled start with some of those involved getting caught up in FBI investigations, such as lobbyist Neil Clark, who died by suicide, but had previously lobbied on behalf of the sports betting industry and became entangled in the House Bill 6 scandal along with former House Speaker Larry Householder, who was recently sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for his corrupt activities. Sports betting became legal in Ohio in January of this year. Over $150 million in wagers were estimated to be made in this year’s Super Bowl.

“This case has been on a journey for almost four years and for the coincidence of Josh Sills to be indicted just prior to an appearance in the Super Bowl, that didn’t happen as a coincidence, that was a deliberate intention on the part of those who were in control of bringing charges to use this opportunity for I believe to be some political publicity or gain or something that is not clearly reflective of what justice should be all about,” said Attorney Steven Dever, on behalf of his client, Josh Sills. “It’s troubling that it happened.”

Ultimately after hearing all the evidence and from all the witnesses, the jury, after a roughly three-hour deliberation, acquitted Sills of both felony charges Friday afternoon. According to his attorneys, he is headed back to Philadelphia to rejoin his teammates and has since been removed from the NFL commissioner’s exempt list. The case was prosecuted by William Walton and Erik Spitzer of the Ohio Attorney General’s Special Prosecutions Section, both declined to comment following the acquittal.

Attorney General Dave Yost released the following statement after the conclusion of the trial: “I still believe the victim. But in America, criminal convictions require proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The jury did not see it, and I thank them for doing their duty under the law.”

Y-City News continues to investigate: Have information you think we should be aware of? Contact us at (740) 562-6252, email us at or mail us at PO Box 686, Zanesville, Ohio 43701. All sources are kept strictly confidential.

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