Investigator: City officer lives with career criminal

12:28 AM, Dec 12, 2012   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- A city corrections officer is living with a career criminal who's currently on probation after being accused of shooting at a mother and her son, then threatening to kill a police officer, a Channel 3 News undercover investigation found.

Jennifer Korb has been a city corrections officer since 2009, while the man she lives with, Tracy Bunch, has racked up 20 convictions that include grand theft, drug trafficking and aggravated assault, according to court records.

In all, Bunch has spent more than five years in state prison as a result of his crimes.

Bunch denied the two are dating or living together, despite the fact that the address listed in court records matches Korb's Warrensville Heights home, as well as undercover video shot by the station that shows the two walking arm in arm while shopping.

Korb refused to comment, telling the Investigator Tom Meyer, "Do you think you should be here bothering a hard-working city worker that has put in her full eight hours today?"

Under most correctional facility policies, a guard is prohibited from living with or fraternizing with someone involved in the justice system, said Cuyahoga County Sheriff Bob Reid.

In Cuyahoga County, ex-offenders have to be out of the system for a year before county officers can get involved them. State prisons have similar provisions.   

Policies against unauthorized relationships protect the integrity of officers, who might bring contraband into the facility or pass notes to an accomplice on behalf of the offender.

"It's common sense driven and it's just a bad, bad idea," Reid said. "You're held to a higher standard (as a corrections officer) and the standard is of character and honest."

No such policy exists at the Cleveland House of Corrections, where Public Safety Director Marty Flask said that "people are held accountable for their actions, not their relationships."

"If an employee, however, engages in inappropriate or illegal activity with an arrested suspect or inmate, that employee will be held accountable," Flask said, in an email.

The relationship between Korb and Bunch goes back at least a year to November 2011, Channel 3 News found. That's when Bunch is quoted in a police report as threatening a woman by telling her, "I'm (expletive) with the police now and she's gonna (expletive) you up, too."

He invoked his relationship with Korb a second time this March while threatening the same woman, police files indicate.  

Bunch has used his relationship with Korb to avoid prison time after pleading guilty to a felony gun charge and misdemeanor aggravated felony for the July shooting.

The shooting occurred on East 144th Street when Bunch mistakenly thought a 21-year-old man was badmouthing him, according to the man's mother.

Bunch came out of a house and fired four to five times at the man and his mother, who tried to hide behind a tree to avoid being shot, she said.

Bunch continued to threaten the two as he was being placed in a police cruiser, according to a police report. Then, on the way to the station, Bunch told the arresting officer that his "life is on the line now. When I get out, someone is gonna die."

But during the sentencing hearing last month, Bunch apologized to the judge for his actions and said it was the result of substance abuse.

Bunch said he was getting treatment at a rehabilitation center and living in a supportive environment with Korb.

Korb stood up during the hearing and acknowledged that Bunch was living with her. She did not say anything, nor was she identified as a city corrections officer.

In the end, the judge sentenced Bunch to two years on probation. If he violates the terms of probation, Bunch will be sentenced to 6 months in the House of Corrections where Korb works.

With more than 25,000 arrests in Cleveland each year, Flask said it is inevitable that a police officer, guard or prosecutor will have a relationship with an offender.

The city does have rules in place that prohibit illegal or inappropriate activity, including conduct that diminishes the esteem of the House of Corrections, Flask said, and "violation of the law or those policies will result in sanctions."   


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