Indicted Police Chief To Change Plea

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An Athens County police chief has resigned from office and is scheduled to change his plea on charges that he harbored a wanted woman in his home.

Lucas Mace, who was chief of the Glouster Police Department, plans to change his plea to to a May indictment from an Athens County grand jury on 12 counts, including three counts of obstructing justice, six counts of dereliction of duty and one count each of theft in office, possessing criminal tools and failure to aid a law enforcement officers. All charges except dereliction of duty and failure to aid are felonies.

The plea was scheduled to happen on Aug. 27, but was moved to Aug. 8 after the visiting judge who had been overseeing the case, Jennifer Sargus, was not available for the later date, according to Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn. Athens County Common Pleas Judge George McCarthy agreed to take the case for the plea hearing, Blackburn said.

The charges stem from Mace allegedly hiding a 23-year-old woman, Hillary Hooper, in his home despite knowing she had multiple active warrants out of multiple counties. Hooper has since pleaded guilty to one count of complicity to possession of heroin.

Blackburn alleged that Mace had started a relationship with Hooper, did not arrest her during a "multi-agency drug roundup" in which Hooper was being sought and gave false information to an investigator in Blackburn's office, along with other law enforcement.

In addition to the planned change of plea, Mace officially submitted his resignation at a meeting of Glouster Village Council in July. The resignation was approved at the same meeting, according to Councilman L.R. Faires.

Fiscal officer Jan Browning confirmed on Friday that the resignation had been submitted by Mace. Mace had been on paid leave in May until the village council voted that Mace be placed on unpaid leave at the end of that month.

"Some of the council members were a bit reluctant but in the end I think they saw that this was what should be done," Faires told The Messenger on Friday.

Interim Police Chief Ryan Nagucki, who was appointed to the office after Mace was placed on leave, will stay on until the Council decides who will be put into place permanently. The job has been officially posted, according to Nagucki, who also said he has expressed interest in the job. He said Mace's resignation would not affect operations at the department.

The department has become strong despite the controversy over the former chief, Faires said.

"We've got a crew of young guys and the community is backing them now which we needed after all this," Faires said. "They are all doing a great job."