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Meade pleads not guilty, requests moving the case to federal court

AP Photo/Paul Vernon

The Ohio sheriff’s deputy who shot Casey Goodson Jr. in the back five times pleaded not guilty Friday to charges of murder and reckless homicide and asked that the case be moved into federal court nearly one year after the killing of Goodson on Dec. 4, 2020.

Attorneys for defendant Jason Meade argue that, as a member of a U.S. Marshals Service fugitive task force, Meade was acting as a federal agent at the time of the shooting.

“Meade’s primary responsibilities were to assist other team members in arresting violent fugitives and other felons,” Steve Nolder, an attorney representing Meade, said in a federal court filing Friday. “As such, on December 4, 2020, Deputy Meade was acting as a federal officer when he shot Casey Goodson, Jr.”

Though Meade’s regular assignment was on the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team, he was assigned to the Marshals’ fugitive task force Monday through Friday with regular 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. hours, the filing said.

The filing by Meade’s attorneys runs counter to what U.S. Marshal Pete Tobin said a week after the shooting.

Meade “was acting on his own and in his independent authority as a Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy within his home jurisdiction when he encountered Mr. Goodson, and throughout the subsequent incident leading to Mr. Goodson’s death,” Tobin said in a Dec. 11, 2020 statement

A message seeking comment was left with the Franklin County special prosecutors trying the case in state court.

At Friday’s court hearing, a magistrate set bond for Meade at $250,000, which another Meade attorney said he expected Meade to post Friday. The bond angered a lawyer representing Goodson’s family, who noted a typical bond for a murder charge is $1 million.

“What is a Black life worth in this justice system in America?” said attorney Sean Walton, who added: “We saw and heard the prosecutors in the room today say that there’s nothing that Casey did whatsoever that led to his death.”

The shooting of the 23-year-old Goodson, who was Black, by Meade, a longtime deputy — now retired — who is white, led to protests in Columbus and many lingering questions, in part because the killing was not recorded on body or dash camera footage.

Meade’s lawyer, Mark Collins, says the deputy fired when Goodson pointed a gun at him. Goodson’s family has never denied that Goodson might have been carrying a gun, but has noted he also had a license to carry a firearm.

Prosecutors say a gun was found in the kitchen after the shooting. Collins said Friday the gun was under Goodson’s body, and Meade moved it as he tried to revive Goodson.

Collins had argued for a reasonable bond, saying Meade has strong ties to the community with no motive for leaving town, has been cooperative over the past year, is a church minister, does not own a passport, and has no weapons at home after they were removed following his indictment.

“This is not a whodunnit,” Collins said. “This is whether or not our client used reasonable force based on the totality of the situation, the circumstances surrounding it, his training in the protocols, and whether or not he subjectively believed his life was in danger.”

Prosecutors laid out a scenario in which Goodson, returning from a dental appointment with a bag of sandwiches for family members, was shot as he entered his grandmother’s house with his keys already in the door. He was shot five times in the back and once in the buttocks, said Franklin County special prosecutor Tim Merkle.

“Investigators found no evidence other than Mr. Meade’s self-serving, uncorroborated statement to show that Casey presented a threat to Mr. Meade,” Merkle said Friday. “Rather, the evidence collected revealed that Casey was doing nothing other than entering his residence when Mr. Meade shot him six times.”

The shooting happened as Meade, a 17-year member of the sheriff’s office, was finishing an unsuccessful search for a fugitive as part of his work for the U.S. Marshals Service task force.

Meade followed Goodson first in his car and then on foot after seeing Goodson in his car point a gun at another driver and then at Meade, and later “waving the firearm erratically,” according to an account provided by Collins.

Goodson’s family has also filed a federal wrongful-death lawsuit against Meade and the sheriff’s office. The complaint claims Meade received hundreds of hours of firearms and SWAT training but little on violence deescalation techniques. That is despite subpar performances as a deputy, including being placed on “no inmate contact status” for nearly four years. The lawsuit did not provide details of the reasons for that placement. A Franklin County spokesperson has declined comment.

Although the shooting did not involve Columbus police, it came at a time of heightened tension over previous shootings of Black people by officers in Ohio’s capital. Then, less than three weeks later, a white Columbus police officer shot and killed 47-year-old Andre Hillas he emerged from a garage holding a cellphone.

Meade, who had been on administrative leave since the shooting, retired July 2 on disability.