While many major stories occurred in Marion County in 2021, there was one that clearly topped them all.
The trial, conviction and sentencing of Marion County Judge Jason Warner was the top story of the year, as selected by Marion Star readers and staff.
Warner, who was elected in 2018, was involved in a hit-skip crash in June 2020 that left a 19-year-old man injured.
Despite calls for his resignation after the crash, Warner instead decided to place himself on paid administrative leave during the proceedings.
Jason and Julia Warner were found guilty in March by visiting Judge Patricia Cosgrove. In April, each were convicted with one count of complicity to leaving the scene of an accident, a fourth-degree felony, and one count of complicity to tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony. While the prosecution did recommend maximum prison sentences for both Jason and Julia, Cosgrove ruled the two will serve two years in prison concurrently.
Cosgrove said a major factor in this case was that both of the Warners exited the vehicle after the crash and cited multiple witness testimonies who said so. Not only did this remove a vital piece of evidence from the scene of the crime, the Jeep, but it also prevented law enforcement from being able to conduct any blood alcohol tests to see if impaired driving was at play.
Margret Tomaro, of the Ohio Attorney General's Office, read statements from Colton Gray, the victim of the crash, and his mother Shannon Taylor.
In the statements from Taylor and Gray, they both said they were in favor of holding the Warner's to the highest standard of the law. Taylor said the Warners left her son to die after the accident and she can't begin to imagine the turmoil he suffered and continues to suffer. Gray, on the other hand, said his life hasn't been the same since the accident.
Of the changes in Gray's life, he said he still gets flashbacks to the night of the accident when he rides in a car. Further, his mobility skills are still hindered, he said, and noted it impacts him while doing recreational activities like playing baseball. On the night of the crash, Gray had to be mechanically removed from his car by EMS.
After the trial, the Warners appealed their conviction and were allowed to remain free on bond during the appeals process. In late November, however, the appeals court upheld the conviction, stating in its ruling that sufficient evidence was presented for conviction.
The Warners were allowed to remain free on bond as they appealed their case to the Ohio Supreme Court in December. Whether the state's highest court will take the case has not yet been determined.
In November, Matthew P. Frericks, magistrate with the Marion Municipal Court, was appointed to replace Warner as Marion County Common Pleas Court Judge by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.
This article originally appeared on Marion Star: Story of 2021: Warners convicted after hit and run crash