Your Digital Source for Zanesville News

Y-City News

Your Digital Source for Zanesville News

Y-City News

Your Digital Source for Zanesville News

Y-City News

DeVillers was part of extortion attempt on former Zanesville police officer


The former Senate-confirmed United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, David DeVillers, the top federal prosecutor for the state’s lower 48 counties, was involved in an alleged scheme to extort a local corrupt member of law enforcement out of a large amount of cash in exchange for a reduced sentence, Y-City News has discovered.

The revelation not only draws additional scrutiny to DeVillers’ return to Muskingum County after leaving federal service, as an appointed private-practicing special prosecutor, for which he received tens of thousands of local tax dollars, but the process for which allowed him to maintain and potentially receive an upgraded security clearance when he became U.S. Attorney, a vulnerability we have identified exists across the country, presenting a significant unreported and uncorrected flaw in the vetting process of our nation’s top federal prosecutors.

The discovery coincides with the bleak reality that China, America’s rival in the commenced Second Cold War, has levied a tsunami of tactics at the United States in its pursuit of identifying and exploiting corrupt and corruptable officials, from the federal, state and local levels, as they engage in both economic and military espionage.

Federal officials declined to comment for this piece. Y-City News, out of an abundance of caution and in the interest of protecting national security, is not identifying other specific federal prosecutors or districts in which compromises were discovered. American intelligence services, outside the purview of the Department of Justice, are aware of the vulnerability and have acted accordingly, those actions are classified and not appropriate for public discourse.

Y-City News has been investigating DeVillers for quite some time, the former top federal prosecutor for the Southern District of Ohio, a Trump Appointee, served in that prestigious role from 2019 through 2021, until newly elected President Joe Biden requested his resignation along with a slate of others. Before that, he had an exemplary career as a Franklin County Gang Prosecutor and as an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) for the Southern District of Ohio, he even was sent overseas to fight terrorism and corruption, including providing assistance in the prosecution of Saddam Hussein.

DeVillers first came onto our radar when he was brought in on the Cory Marling prosecution, a local principal who committed sex crimes against elementary-aged children. Originally indicted in Muskingum County and likely to serve decades behind bars due to overwhelming evidence of his crimes, Y-City News covered the matter extensively. Ultimately, the community was shocked and appalled when Marling had all of his felony charges dropped by Muskingum County Prosecutor Ron Welch weeks before trial.

After his conviction, we learned that Welch requested, the court approved and the county commissioners paid $12,445.44 to DeVillers to act as a private-practicing special prosecutor in a parallel interference investigation – that coincided with reports we received that numerous officials were attempting to put their hand on the scale of justice in the benefit of Marling. Even after felony charges were dropped for non-sex crime reporting misdemeanors, the defendant was seen on school property with a county court judge’s son, which caused many to wonder if Marling would get probation for his actions or have the charges dropped entirely. Ultimately after our reporting of that, the other sole remaining judge on the court sentenced him to just shy of a year in county jail, the maximum. Following sentencing, the defendant’s family screamed at us, saying that it was our reporting that led to their relative, defendant Cory Marling, being sent to jail.

DeVillers never brought criminal charges in that investigation, couldn’t explain why he was selected over a neighboring county prosecutor’s office or the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, who would have done the investigation for free and with experienced investigators who had sex-crime interference cases under their belt, refused to say who he interviewed or met with and refused to release his report on the matter, which normally has to be made public but due to him being privately hired to act as a government prosecutor was protected, we are told, by attorney-client privilege.

The criminal defense attorney he went up against, Mark Collins, who represented Tri-Valley Superintendent Mark Neal, who we are told was one of the main targets of DeVillers’ investigation, months after going up against each other were partner defense attorneys in a case in federal court defending a prominent doctor before Chief Judge Algenon Marbley in the Southern District of Ohio. Collins roughly a decade-and-half ago also came into Muskingum County to act as a private-practicing special prosecutor when the then County Prosecutor Mike Haddox’s son was discovered at a local party where 14-year-old Grant Hickman was found dead after consuming alcohol. Likewise, Superintendent Neal’s son, J. Grant Neal, now the Director of Law for the City of Wapakoneta, previously interned for the Muskingum County Prosecutor’s Office.

Following that case, DeVillers was brought back again to Muskingum County as a private-practicing special prosecutor, at a cost to local taxpayers, in a local drug prosecution that was shielded in secrecy and for which DeVillers’ appointment remains sealed by the court. While covering the Attorney General’s Special Prosecution of NFL player Josh Sills in Guernsey County, who was indicted just days before the Super Bowl, netting massive media coverage – years after they took over the investigation, for which we discovered large bets were made against his team around the same time the indictment was filed with the court, we began to look into the Attorney General’s use of special prosecutors of their own, which included David DeVillers. We discovered one case shielded more than the rest, with most of the information redacted. That case happened to involve DeVillers and the 26-year-old defense attorney he went up against in the drug case out of Muskingum County, Samantha Pugh, working together as partners just months after going against each other, initiated by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and given to DeVillers’ firm, Barnes & Thornburg.

Throughout our investigation, we found other connections, including that Muskingum County Prosecutor Ron Welch and Defense Attorney Mark Collins had worked cases together previously in Franklin County. Collins also had cases before the Southern District of Ohio while DeVillers was an AUSA and then the United States Attorney. However, it was the prosecution of three corrupt members of law enforcement in Muskingum County, that we discovered via an archived FBI press release, that linked DeVillers previously to the area and with Muskingum County Prosecutor Ron Welch, who at that time was an assistant prosecutor in the local office under Prosecutor Mike Haddox.

Two Zanesville Police Officers and one Genesis Security Officer were federally indicted in 2007 for extorting local drug dealers as well as their involvement in the local drug trade, which included the trafficking of cocaine.

One of those three, Zanesville Police Officer Sean Beck, wrote a letter to Federal Judge Edmund Sargus of the Southern District of Ohio, Columbus Division, about his defense attorney and DeVillers’ attempt to extort him in exchange for a reduced sentence. That letter, which is extremely articulate and displays Beck’s profound understanding of the law, displays how DeVillers, one of the country’s most prestigious prosecutors, had improprieties that highlight the failure of federal authorities, within the Department of Justice, to intervene and protect its Senate-confirmed appointees. This comes to light as the Northern District of Ohio was cast to national attention when its Senate-confirmed U.S. Attorney, Marisa Darden, was caught at an out-of-country party where illegal drugs were used by federal officials.

According to Beck, while held in federal custody after his arrest, he was approached by a Cpl. Raven and solicited by him to hire Attorney J. Scott Weisman, which he did.

“Mr. Weisman had told me and my parents on several occasions that he had a very good relationship with David DeVillers,” Beck wrote. “Weisman stated several times that DeVillers owed him big time for several fuck-ups DeVillers had made and Weisman cleaned up so it would not hurt his career or reputation.”

“In October Weisman advised me that he could get me a deal of 6 to 10 years if I did something for him. He stated he wanted 200,000 dollars and if I didn’t was looking at a minimum of 60 some years. Weisman stated he would get it if I came through.”

In his letter to Judge Sargus, Beck said that he was ‘pressured to go to proffer meetings’ when he didn’t want to and that Weisman prepped him by telling him what DeVillers wanted him to say.

“Weisman was showing me plea offers and statements and PSI reports of my co-conspirators. He told me he got them from DeVillers but I was told not to say anything because he was not suppose to have them.”

Beck also writes in his letter about how DeVillers wanted to speak with him personally, asking for information, which he provided.

“I was asked if I was going to come up with the money. I was asked about a rumor they heard that money was hidden at my residents in the yard. I was told by DeVillers about an open investigation on the ZPD and individuals. I was told by DeVillers about the Donald Peterson case and why charges had been dropped. DeVillers stated besides the informant having issues that the agent had lied about several issues in the case and stated the agent fucked up big time.”

Peterson was a former Zanesville Police Officer who was fired after being wrongly accused of federal drug charges, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

“I was told I had until Monday to go with the deal or all deals off.”

“A comment was made by Weisman before this meeting that he was taking DeVillers out for drinks.”

According to Beck’s letter, DeVillers stayed behind after Weisman left to speak with him, but he doesn’t say what that discussion entailed.

“A week later Weisman showed up with a plea offer. I was told all deals are gone since I did not come through. A very heated argument occurred before the two of us with him leaving. He threatened to sign plea or else I would get destroyed by DeVillers because he’s pissed I didn’t come through.”

DeVillers sits before a Muskingum County judge while prosecuting a local drug case in August 2022.

After that, Beck retained Attorney Terry Sherman to be his attorney in the case and asked that Sherman terminate his relationship with Weisman.

“That same day Weisman came into the jail. At the time, I didn’t know yet that he had been fired. Weisman was very upset, he called me a jackass and said DeVillers will max me now, was told if I even thought about telling you (Judge Sargus) would never believe me over him. He stated you were a former prosecutor and I had no chance.”

Judge Edmund Sargus was the former Senate-confirmed United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio. He became a federal judge in the same district in 1996. Judge Sargus was seated in Columbus, both as the U.S. Attorney and then later as a federal judge while DeVillers worked for the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, which included against the Short North Posse, through both state and federal convictions. Judge Sarus has his Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Muskingum University, then Muskingum College.

“Told I should think about my son and family that I will never see them again once DeVillers was done with me – he then left,” Beck wrote in his letter to Judge Sargus about his interaction with Weisman.

Beck writes that he attempted to tell his new counsel, Attorney Sherman, about those interactions but that ‘he gets up and leaves stating he will not get involved in this at all.’

In his letter, Beck alleges that an agent shared information he provided during his proffer meeting. He also writes that the main witness in his case, the confidential informant, was caught by another agency violating his parol while working for law enforcement, as well as having a crash on his motorcycle and fleeing the scene without reporting it.

Likewise, he speaks about how it seemed that neither Attorney Weisman nor Attorney Sherman would pursue discovery in his case or file the motions he requested, including in bringing discrepancies in his case to light.

“Mr. Sherman 100% refused to listen to any of my facts, statements and any evidence I had shared with him.”

“Mr. Sherman has told myself and my parents more than once that he has to work with these men and would not make waves.”

In his letter, Beck also gives details about how federal authorities were working on other local individuals.

“Later when leaving to be transported back to jail by two agents I was taken to a unknown location in Columbus, a residential street, and brought food as a bribery tool and stated badgering I with questions about my case, the mayor and the chief of the City of Zanesville.”

Beck ends his letter recapping what his various pages detail.

“My last remarks is I [unreadble word] have a deputy solicit me to his friend and a attorney and prosecutor try to bribe me.”

“Due to this bribery DeVillers and Wiseman use threats and coercion and distress to get me to give statements.”

“I feel Prosecutor DeVillers has shown prosecutorial misconduct.”

“I just can’t be scared of all the threats to me anymore and must stand up for what’s right and I will not be told to lie in a courtroom.”

Beck also writes that he sent a complaint to the Criminal Chief on DeVillers and to the Office of Professional Responsibility, as well as reports to the FBI.

Y-City News tried extensively to reach Attorney Weisman, who now lives in Arizona where he works as the Vice President of Commerical Sales for Aalberts Integrated Piping Systems, but no such attempts at contact were returned.

Attorney Sherman, who still practices law in Columbus, after nearly five decades, responded to our inquiry by sending us filings contained in Beck’s case.

“The enclosed documents offer valuable insights in to my interaction in this case,” wrote Attorney Sherman. “While I cannot recall the specifics of this case independently, I trust that the documents I am sharing will be self-explanatory and convey the necessary information you seek. I am confident that they will provide all the information you need.”

In those documents, which have been filed with the court, Sherman writes of irreconcilable differences between him and Beck.

“Given Mr. Beck’s denunciations, the undersigned has no choice but to withdraw as Attorney of Record,” wrote Sherman in those filings.”

“Now comes Trial Attorney Terry K. Sherman, and hereby submits his response to defendant’s allegations set forth in his August 1, 2008 letter to the Court, which was filed and made public. Inasmuch as Mr. Beck publicly raised the issue of trial counsel’s competency, the attorney/client privilege has been waived, at least with respect to counsel’s evaluation of the evidence, the consequences of a conviction and why Mr. Beck should seriously consider accepting the Plea Agreement offered by the government. On March 24, 2008, Mr. Beck was presented an opinion letter which outlined in detail trial counsel’s evaluation of the government’s case against him, the consequences of a conviction and the need to seriously consider the government’s plea offer.”

In that attached letter, Attorney Sherman details his ‘extensive legal research’ on Beck’s case, which he believed presented an insurmountable amount of evidence and material that would cause any jury to find him guilty of his crimes, including having been in a trusted position in his community, as a police officer.

“If convicted on these counts alone, the Court must sentence you to fifty-five (55) years of imprisonment, which by law must be served consecutive to any other sentence imposed by the Court. Count 5 of the Indictment alleges the substantive charge of Conspiracy to Distribute Drugs, and carries a mandatory sentence of not less than five (5) nor more than forty (40) years. As a result, if you are convicted of all counts, the Court must sentence you to a minimum of sixty (60) years and that sentence must be served consecutive to any additional sentence you may received as a consequence of the underlying offenses.”

Attorney Sherman then goes on to detail the plea offer of 240 months (20 years) with five years of supervised release.

“The government’s case consists of numerous audio recordings, some video recordings, co-defendants’ testimony, cooperating individuals’ testimony and your own admissions. Simply put, the government has a slam-dunk case. If you go to trial you will be convicted of all counts of the Indictment. I see no plausible defense which can be mounted to neutralize the government’s overwhelming case. Everything the informants will testify to is supported by audio and video tapes, co-defendants’ testimony and your own admissions. I met with the Assistant U.S. Attorneys assigned to this case to discuss their plea offer to you. The prosecutors made it clear their plea offer to you is a rock-bottom offer. I was advised the government’s plea offer is the outcome of a consensus of several agencies, including the Muskingum County Sheriff’s Department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI and others. I was assured the offer will not get any better; only worse. Frankly, I do not see any possibility of moving the government off its plea offer. I do not see any possibility of you prevailing at trial. As I told you, in my opinion all the trial would be is a slow guilty plea. Therefore, I urge you to enter into the plea agreement with the government. After the plea agreement is executed, allow me to take the information you have and see if I can gradually develop it into something the government may be willing to consider as substantial assistance. As you know, I have been practicing for thirty-seven (37) years and I have a substantial federal practice. I am in the courts every day and with all my heart and soul, I believe I am giving you the true benefit of my experience, as well as my research and evaluation of your case. You have every right to decide for yourself. You have every right to insist on going to trial. You can rest assured that we will do our best to represent you; however, I am frankly at a loss because we have no viable theory of defense. You must recognize that your decision to not consider this plea agreement is completely against my advice.”

Officially, AUSA Michael Marous was the lead on the case and David DeVillers was the second-in-command, however, from court filings to Beck’s letter to other accounts, it seems DeVillers took the lead on the case. Y-City News could not make contact with AUSA Marous.

The letter from Beck highlights a matter that appears to have never been examined before by a media outlet, Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSAs) have security clearances, they often work on matters and cases of national security, and their integrity must be thoroughly vetted to ensure they are not susceptible to foreign interference or espionage. Most Senate-confirmed United States Attorneys, as in DeVillers’ case, are sourced from the ranks within their districts, the AUSAs. From those positions, senior Department of Justice staff are often selected. A failure of those conducting security clearance reviews and upgrades to look at letters filed by defendants in cases in which they are assigned is a massive national security vulnerability.

As Y-City News has previously identified but only limitedly reported, out of concerns for national security, the Columbus Division of the Southern District of Ohio has some of the nation’s most important projects and operations, both existing and forthcoming.

From the publically known, such as Intel’s chip factories coming to western Licking County to Google’s trio of data centers in Central Ohio to Boeing’s Guidance Reair Center in Heath, to the publically unknown and extremely compartmentalized, the area has been the target of an onslaught of espionage, particularly by China.

A simple court search will show that AUSA Michael Marous has worked criminal cases involving Chinese espionage, adding to his likely targeting by that country. The Southern District of Ohio also recently held the trial of Chinese Ministry of State Security Operative Yanjun Xu who was working to get industry secrets from GE Aviation.

Additionally, as Y-City News also previously reported but did not disclose as to why, to protect national security, when DeVillers returned to Muskingum County as a private-practicing special prosecutor, China’s intelligence services were watching closely, requiring actions by American assets outside the scope and authority of the Department of Justice to protect classified sites and operations in the immediate region.

As we did with DeVillers’ appearance in Muskingum County, by reaching out to the other 87 counties in Ohio to determine if his appointment as a paid special prosecutor was abnormal, we developed a method to determine if such concerning letters might also appear in the other 93 federal districts around the country, what we found was very alarming. Those details and information on other top federal officials are being withheld at this time in the interest of national security, as it represents a substantial vulnerability missed during the security clearance process.

The Chinese, like the Soviets before them, have learned to go after what they assume the intelligence services are too busy to monitor, cases of corruption that federal authorities know about but decline to prosecute. Those cases are especially important though because they allow a way in, a thread to pull for further espionage activity.

Y-City News attempted in multiple ways to bring these concerns to the Department of Justice as well as to inquire about whether Beck’s warnings were ever investigated, but they declined to comment or respond. Unlike every other federal agency, the Department of Justice is not subject to an independent body, an Inspector General, who has the authority to look into matters of impropriety, instead, they rely on the Office of Professional Responsibility.

DeVillers, who brought the federal charges against Perry County resident and former Speaker of the Ohio House, Larry Householder, in the House Bill 6 scandal, while United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, is also now himself under investigation by another federal district, outside of Ohio, along with Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost based on alleged financial crimes. To protect that investigation, we are not providing more details or context. The Department of Justice in the District of Columbia, the nation’s capital, is also running a parallel federal investigation around the House Bill 6 scandal, including with the involvement of some of the top brass, that in part concerns a Chinese intelligence operation.

Y-City News continues to investigate. Do you have additional information about this situation, other information you think our news organizing should know about or want to bring our attention to a matter that needs investigating? We would like to hear from you. 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.

View Comments (9)

Comments (9)

All Y-City News Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • D

    Darlene JonesMar 6, 2024 at 3:00 pm

    Is there a Petition to get him off the streets quicker and in a jail Cell ! This man has ruined so many peoples lives and their families ! If there isn’t one we need to start one !!! Free Jonathan Danztler Jr.

  • L

    Lemont ReynoldsJan 30, 2024 at 7:32 pm

    I pray they review my brother case in Zanesville Lance Reynolds because DeVillers dirty ass was on his case . My brother didn’t deserve all that time in prison They need to review all DeVillers cases in Columbus plus other country in OHIO

  • D

    DANNIELLE JJan 9, 2024 at 10:13 am


  • B

    BrandonJan 8, 2024 at 10:43 pm

    Look deep into the short north cases

  • J

    JermpattersonJan 8, 2024 at 10:37 pm

    Dave devil lees and terry sherman did me the same way sold me out because they wanted me too lie on the short north case against Brandon lead better , deonte Ussury and numerous other because I didn’t snitch they made me a Carear offender knowing I actually wasn’t one instead of 47-74 months I was giving 188-240 but judge Watson decided my history was over stated but during my whole bid I continue to submit evidence I wasn’t a carear offender only to have devillers go over Kevin Kelly head after seeing I was right and get me denied three times I know for sure he paid informants on the short north case and new people were lying and still considered it facts there case should be look into throughly again it so much prosecutor misconduct in that case along with marice Williams and deandre Forrest cases

  • N

    NicoleJan 8, 2024 at 8:22 am

    This is so sad!!! this needs to be investigated and the people that were wrongly sentenced need to be released. Maurice Williams (papa Joe) was sentenced by this man for an extremely long amount of time with no evidence. It was a high profile case and career move for Deviller. The black Community is tired of being treated unfairly. Please look into this case

  • A

    Angela DDec 16, 2023 at 7:48 pm

    You should be investigating Zanesville’s entire prosecuting office, especially Ron Welch, and John Litle.

    • H

      Heidi RileyDec 19, 2023 at 1:04 pm

      All Muskingum county officials should be investigated and prosecuted for where this county stands today! Fire every single one of them! Worthless! Cory marling should never have the chance to repeat his actions! Stand up Muskingum county! Let’s do something about getting these crooked asses out of our county!

    • B

      Brandy PriceJan 7, 2024 at 3:14 pm

      This prosecutor has wrongfully prosecuted & convicted several people that I know, and those cases should be dismissed as they have served more than enough time due to wrongful conviction with lack of evidence to support those cases. Maurice Williams AKA Papa Joe Deandre Forest AKA Waka were both prosecuted by Deviller and both men have received an insurmountable amount of time based solely off of the testimony of others which is circumstantial evidence no direct evidence has ever been presented in either of these cases. The justice system has been corrupt for years this is nothing new, but the black community is tired of the injustice we’re tired of receiving excessive amounts of time for non violent crimes and it’s time that something is done about it!