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YOUNGSTOWN Hearing angers family of victim



Published: Sat, May 12, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The assistant prosecutor said finding witnesses will be difficult.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Tempers flared outside a courtroom Friday after a woman asked to withdraw her plea of guilty to killing a woman after a traffic-related fight last summer.

One man was taken away in handcuffs, though a disorderly conduct complaint against him was later dropped.

Relatives of Charise Harmon were upset that instead of seeing Danielle Kramer sentenced for killing Harmon, they saw a hearing during which Kramer's lawyers argued that she should be allowed to recant her plea and go to trial.

"It's messed up," Harmon's sister-in-law Rochelle Wallace of Youngstown said after the hearing. "How can she just change her mind? Charise isn't here to change her mind."

Who was jailed: Harmon's fianc & eacute;, Brian C. McClain, 29, of Arch Street, was handcuffed and taken away by deputies who said he was argumentative and refused to calm down after the hearing. They cited him with a misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct.

The charge was dropped when authorities learned there was an active warrant for McClain in Youngstown Municipal Court on a charge of criminal trespassing.

He was being held in the county jail on the warrant and is to be arraigned Monday before Judge Elizabeth A. Kobly.

Kramer, 28, of Parnell Street, pleaded guilty in March to voluntary manslaughter. Her sentencing was to be Friday, but her lawyers filed a motion this week asking that she be allowed to withdraw the plea and go to trial.

Assistant Prosecutor Patrick R. Pochiro objected, saying he probably won't be able to find witnesses for a trial. Once Kramer pleaded, the witnesses thought the case was closed and left town, he said.

Defense attorney Don L. Hanni Jr. said if Pochiro knew where the witnesses were two weeks ago, he should be able to track them down now, drawing an angry response from Pochiro.

"Mr. Hanni's argument sounds good, but that's not how it is in the real world, and certainly not in Youngstown," he said.

What judge decides: Judge R. Scott Krichbaum gave Pochiro a week to look for witnesses before he makes a ruling on plea-change request.

"If the state is unable to present its case, then I just can't imagine that I would allow her to withdraw the plea," he said.

The judge said he's not inclined to grant the request anyway because he believes Kramer was given ample time to make up her mind and was given a fair plea-agreement hearing.

"Once a person has their day in court, that should be it," he said.

A recent ruling by the 7th District Court of Appeals, however, said that defendants who plead guilty then change their mind before sentencing should be permitted to do it, so Judge Krichbaum said he will have to take that into consideration before making his final ruling.

bjackson@vindy.com




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