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YOUNGSTOWN Shooter seeks to withdraw plea



Published: Thu, May 10, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Danielle Kramer has always wanted to let a jury decide the case, her mother said.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- A Parnell Street woman has changed attorneys and changed her mind about pleading guilty to killing a woman during a fight after a traffic accident last year.

Danielle Kramer, 28, is scheduled to be sentenced Friday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court for voluntary manslaughter, to which she pleaded guilty in March.

Now when she goes to court, it will be for a hearing on her motion to withdraw the plea and go to trial on the original charge of murder.

"She's always wanted to go to trial," said Kramer's mother, Evelyn Kramer of Austintown. "She was pleading to something that she does not believe she did."

Judge R. Scott Krichbaum must approve Kramer's request, which Assistant Prosecutor Patrick R. Pochiro said he will not oppose.

Pochiro said a ruling last year by the 7th District Court of Appeals opened the door for criminal defendants to recant a guilty plea if it's done before sentencing.

In the past, judges had discretion to reject a plea-change request if there was no evidence that something other than the defendant's mind had changed.

New lawyers: Kramer had been defended by attorneys Thomas Zena and Samuel Amendolara, but last week hired attorneys Don L. Hanni Jr. and Joseph F. Rafidi.

"We feel she has a very defendable case," Rafidi said.

Mrs. Kramer, 48, said she was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, which is why Danielle took the plea.

"She was looking at a shorter prison sentence by taking the plea," Mrs. Kramer said. "She did not want to be in prison and risk not seeing me again."

Mrs. Kramer said she was not aware that was the reason for the plea until afterward. When she found out, she encouraged her daughter to do what she believes is right and not base a decision on her health.

Zena said Kramer had informed him and Amendolara that she wanted to change her plea and that he'd prepared the proper motion for the court, but found out over the weekend that the family hired new lawyers.

"I wish her the best," he said. Amendolara declined to comment.

What she said: Police have called the case a matter of reverse road rage, though Kramer said in a recent telephone conversation that it wasn't that at all.

She said she was defending herself from an assault by 25-year-old Charise E. Harmon of Campbell, after the two women were in a traffic accident.

Witnesses said Harmon became enraged after Kramer's passing car hit her open car door outside F & amp;N Market on Shehy Street in May 2000, pulled the keys out of Kramer's car and began punching her.

During the struggle, Kramer pulled a gun from under her car seat and shot Harmon in the chest.

Harmon's brother then chased Kramer through yards to Bruce Street, where he caught her and beat her with the same gun, which Kramer had dropped. A Bruce Street man saw the assault from his kitchen, ran outside and rescued Kramer.

bjackson@vindy.com




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