Trial for ex-media president underway

Defense attorney says case is about ‘vengeance’

By Glenn Battishill

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Elsass during his testimony Thursday afternoon. during his testimony Thursday afternoon.

The attorney for the former president of a Delaware County political media firm said the president’s former boss is seeking “vengeance” against his client.

The trial of Nicholas Everhart, 35, of Columbus, the former president of The Strategy Group Company, began Thursday in Delaware County Common Pleas Court. Everhart is accused of illegally accessing computer files after he was fired by the company’s CEO, Rex Elsass.

Everhart faces two charges of unauthorized use of cable or telecommunications property, which are fifth-degree felonies.

Everhart’s attorney, Anthony M. Heald, said the case was essentially about Elsass seeking “vengeance” against Everhart.

The case centers around a week in April 2013, after Everhart was fired from his position as president of The Strategy Group Company, a media firm that has consulted on campaigns for various Republican candidates. Elsass, the first witness called in the case, testified for more than two hours.

Assistant County Prosecutor Douglas Dumolt said that, after Everhart was fired, he asked a company employee and friend, Mitchell C. Marczewski Jr., to access to Everhart’s work computer and to send him business contacts as well as personal files, including photos and videos.

Marczewski had been an employee of the Strategy Group for a couple of years before leaving to attend seminary in California in January 2013. His seminary training was reportedly paid for by the Strategy Group as part of a scholarship. Marczewski testified Thursday afternoon that while he was no longer an employee of the Strategy Group, he would still help out from time to time by scheduling trips or managing calendars.

Marczewski said Everhart asked him to look through Elsass’ emails on April 2 to try and find something that would nullify Everhart’s non-compete clause. Marczewski said he could find nothing.

Marczewski testified that after Everhart was fired on April 6, he did access Everhart’s work computer and transferred contacts and personal files to Everhart.

Heald said Everhart had been working for Elsass for more than 10 years and said the two were very close before Everhart’s termination.

Heald said Everhart and other Strategy Group employees were troubled with decisions Elsass had been making and staged an intervention. Marczewski testified that the employees of the company were worried about Elsass both spiritually and professionally.

Elsass testified about the intervention and said Everhart and other employees presented him with a document and asked him to sign over control of the company.

Dumolt’s examination of Elsass included frequent objections by Heald, and Judge David Gormley had to remind Elsass on several occasions to answer only the questions he was being asked. Several statements were struck from the record by Gormley.

Elsass said he felt betrayed by Everhart and two other employees and ordered their terminations. No litigation, civil or criminal, have been brought against the other two employees, Heald pointed out.

Elsass said that Everhart’s betrayal caused him a great deal of trauma.

Heald pointed out that Elsass had filed a 10-count civil case against Everhart in Franklin County but the case was “dismissed with prejudice.” Heald also said that after Marczewski testified at the civil proceedings, Elsass cut his seminary funding.

Elsass said he felt betrayed by Marczewski and believed it was no longer appropriate to fund his education. Elsass said he felt compassion for Everhart but was still seeking justice.

Marczewski was the last witness to testify Thursday and the case will resume Friday morning with Heald’s cross examination of Marczewski.

Everhart is expected to testify Friday.

Ryan Rodgers, the Strategy Group employee who replaced Marczewski, testified that he gave Marczewski Elsass’s email password on several occasions and didn’t think it was unusual because many employees had access to Elsass’ calendar.

No charges have been filed against Marczewski. He told the jury that prosecutors promised that his testimony would not be used against him in any future criminal proceedings. He testified that he knew Elsass would not approve of him reading his emails but did so because of his loyalty to Everhart.

Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.

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