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YOUNGSTOWN Man who withdrew guilty plea is convicted



Published: Wed, August 8, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



A judge could sentence Antonio Griffin to 13 years in prison Thursday.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Antonio Griffin could be a classic example of someone who won a battle but lost the war.

He won a fight to withdraw a guilty plea and take his case to trial, but he lost the trial and now faces a prison term nearly twice as long as the one he'd gotten under his original plea agreement.

A Mahoning County Common Plea Court jury found Griffin guilty Tuesday of attempted murder. The panel deliberated about eight hours Monday and Tuesday.

Judge R. Scott Krichbaum will sentence Griffin at 10 a.m. Thursday. He faces up to 13 years in prison.

Crime: Griffin, 22, of Hillman Way, shot Rocky DeFrank three times during a dispute outside their McKinley Avenue home in May 1999. Griffin lived at the home with DeFrank, DeFrank's girlfriend and their two children.

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. The request was denied by Judge Krichbaum, who sentenced him to seven years in prison.

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.

His story: Defense attorney Mark Lavelle said that, in hindsight, it appears that Griffin should have stuck with the plea agreement and the seven-year sentence.

"But he wanted to take a shot at trial and tell his story," Lavelle said.

DeFrank said during the trial that Griffin became angry at being left out of a trip to a bar with him and two women in May 1999. When the three returned to the McKinley Way home, an argument broke out in the house between DeFrank and Griffin.

Griffin followed DeFrank outside, carrying a .22-caliber rifle in each hand, and shot DeFrank in the left arm, the back and the buttocks before being stopped by one of the women.

Lavelle had argued during the trial that it was DeFrank who had the guns and was menacing the others when Griffin grabbed one of the weapons and fired in self-defense.

The defense lawyer said DeFrank and the two women have since engaged in an ongoing collusion to pin the blame on Griffin.

bjackson@vindy.com




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