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YOUNGSTOWN Victim testifies about shooting



Published: Fri, August 3, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The victim was shot in the arm, back and buttocks.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Antonio Griffin doesn't dispute that he shot his friend Rocky DeFrank three times during an argument at their home two years ago.

Jurors must decide whether he did it in anger or self-defense.

Griffin, 22, of Hillman Way, is on trial in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, charged with attempted murder. Testimony began Thursday before Judge R. Scott Krichbaum.

DeFrank said he moved into a house on McKinley Way with his girlfriend, Tammy Hileman, and their two children in March 1999. He invited Griffin to live with them because the two were friends and Griffin had no place else to go.

In the early morning hours of May 28, 1999, DeFrank, Hileman and another woman went to a bar. Griffin had planned to go along, but stayed behind because the other woman, Erin Vath, didn't want him along, DeFrank said.

Victim's account: He said Griffin became angry because DeFrank went to the bar with the others instead of staying home with him. When the three got home shortly after 2 a.m., Vath and Hileman stayed outside while DeFrank went inside to tell Griffin he had to move out of the house.

DeFrank said an argument ensued when he walked into the house. He said Griffin picked up a 40-ounce beer bottle as if to hit DeFrank in the head with it.

Before Griffin could hit him, DeFrank pushed Griffin against a wall and down onto the floor, then turned and walked out of the house, he said.

Griffin, incensed at being manhandled, followed DeFrank outside holding a .22-caliber rifle in each hand and shot DeFrank in the left arm, the back and the buttocks before being stopped by Vath, DeFrank said.

Defense lawyer Mark Lavelle said in his opening statement that it was DeFrank, not Griffin, who took the guns outside.

He said DeFrank and Hileman had argued at the bar and continued to argue on the way home. They were arguing because Hileman wanted DeFrank to kick Griffin out of the house, Lavelle said.

Lavelle said DeFrank went inside, pushed Griffin to the floor, picked up the guns and went outside, where he pointed one of the guns at Hileman.

Griffin followed DeFrank outside, grabbed the rifle from his right hand, stepped back and fired at him, Lavelle said.

Alleged conspiracy: He said DeFrank and the two women have since engaged in an ongoing collusion to pin the blame on Griffin.

In October 1999, Griffin pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of felonious assault. Before he was sentenced, however, he filed a motion to withdraw the plea and go to trial, which was overruled by Judge Krichbaum.

The 7th District Court of Appeals ruled this past March, however, that Griffin should have been allowed to withdraw the plea and handed the case back to common pleas court for trial.

bjackson@vindy.com




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