Carolyn Kuharski and Edward Bryan, federal public defenders assigned to the case of Jeremy Mack, 37, of Elyria deny they committed any crimes or ethical violations, although both removed themselves from the case, the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported Tuesday.
A nine-count criminal indictment accuses Mack of conspiracy, drug offenses and sex trafficking of children. The charges claim one of his prostitutes was 16.
Mack co-defendant Ashley Onysko, 23, struck a plea bargain with prosecutors in which she admitted recruiting teenage women for Mack, offered them free heroin and drove them to hotel rooms to engage in sex.
Some of the women involved accuse Mack of routinely beating and choking them, and threatening them and their families.
Kuharski denied prosecutors' claims she acted as a go-between for Mack and a witness described as Victim No. 4 after a no-contact order between Mack and the witness was issued following Mack's June indictment.
Kuharski and the witness exchanged numerous text messages, and Kuharski hand-delivered letters, photographs and messages from the witness to Mack, prosecutors claim.
"That [Kuharski and Bryan] are aware their conduct in this instance may rise to the level of a criminal investigation of them demonstrates a conflict that warrants disqualification," the prosecutors wrote in a motion submitted to Cleveland federal Judge Sara Lioi.