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LISBON Meeting in murder-plot case appears to be plea-deal effort



Published: Fri, August 17, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Potential jurors have read too many newspaper accounts of the case to be unbiased, attorneys say.

LISBON -- Prosecutors and attorneys representing a teacher accused in a murder plot met privately for nearly three hours in what appeared to be an effort to strike a plea bargain.

But the long session Thursday in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court chambers produced no such agreement and participants refused to comment afterward.

"The lines of communication between my office and his lawyers' office remains open," assistant county Prosecutor John Gamble said, referring to attorneys representing Thomas Kelm, 35, of Leetonia.

Kelm is being represented by Lawrence Stacey II and Jim Hartford, a former county prosecutor.

Hearing wasn't scheduled: Although Kelm was not scheduled for a hearing Thursday, he suddenly was brought to the courthouse in the afternoon.

His family also was summoned, and Kelm met with them.

Stacey refused to comment after talks among attorneys ended. Gamble declined to say if the talks were aimed at producing a plea bargain.

He would say only that the unscheduled meeting was to discuss the case's status.

The meeting coincided with a scheduled pre-trial hearing for David Wilson, 19, of Hanoverton, who is charged as a conspirator with Kelm in the murder plot.

Wilson served as an FBI informant to gather evidence that likely will be used against Kelm, authorities have said.

Wilson, who is being held in the county jail on $250,000 bond, is to be tried Aug. 28.

Pre-trial talks concerning Wilson were held privately.

Trial to begin: Kelm's trial is set for Monday. He is charged with four counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder.

He is accused of plotting with others to kill a woman with whom authorities say he fathered a child; the child, 2; and the woman's grandparents. All four are from Lisbon.

The county career center teacher has been in the county jail on $500,000 bond since his May 25 arrest.

Earlier this week, Kelm's attorneys argued that extensive press coverage of the case necessitates his trial being held elsewhere.

They are asking Judge David Tobin of county common pleas court to move Kelm's trial to another county.

They say too many potential jurors have read newspaper accounts of the case, which could prejudice their ability to decide his guilt or innocence based solely on what is presented in the courtroom.

Judge Tobin is considering the request.




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