July 1, 2008

Morrow County Man Sent to Prison for Spreading Mercury in Courthouse

By Dana Wilson, The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio

Jul. 1--MOUNT GILEAD, Ohio -- A Morrow County judge sent a man to prison today and ordered him to pay for the damage he caused by spilling mercury inside the county courthouse last year.

Tommy C. Hansen, 56, of Bellville in Richland County, was sentenced to serve 10 years in prison for a combination of charges, including criminal use of a chemical weapon. Hansen pleaded guilty in April to that charge, along with seven counts of gross sexual imposition, as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.

Common Pleas Judge Howard E. Hall fined Hansen $10,000 and ordered him to pay $84,943 to cover damages to the Morrow County Courthouse. Hansen also was labeled a Tier II sex offender, which requires him to register with authorities every six months for 25 years when released.

The courthouse was evacuated and closed in June 2007 after authorities discovered about a pound of mercury had been scattered in hallways.

At the time of the mercury spill, Hansen already had been charged with molesting three girls at a Morrow County campground in 2005.

Prosecutors have said that Hansen spread the poisonous chemical to delay or foul his sex-crime court proceedings.

Morrow County Commissioners recently approved a $1.5 million courthouse renovation project that will also repair the destruction from the mercury spill, Commissioner Olen Jackson said.

Cleanup crews ripped out carpeting and wood flooring, "everything that was touched" by the chemical, Jackson said. Commissioners delayed making repairs until they could dedicate general fund money to larger-scale improvements.

The renovation will add a second Common Pleas courtroom, new judge's quarters, meeting space and restrooms.


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