MAHONING COUNTY To be free, inmate must stick to deal
Kelly Graves' freedom hinges upon what happens with a co-defendant's case.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Kelly Graves was released from prison Thursday, but he still isn't a free man.
Judge Jack Durkin of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court won't sign papers fully granting his release until Graves keeps his end of a bargain he made with prosecutors eight years ago.
Graves, 29, has served eight years of an eight-to-15-year sentence for his role in a 1995 shooting that will force a Howland man to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Graves pleaded guilty in June 1996 to complicity to felonious assault.
Defense attorney James Gentile had filed a request for Graves to be released from prison on shock probation, which Judge Durkin approved Thursday with strings attached.
Part of the deal Graves made with prosecutors in exchange for reduced charges was to testify against Marcus Smith, whom authorities believe was the actual shooter.
The charges stemmed from an altercation after a party on Pennsylvania Avenue, near the Youngstown State University campus, in January 1995.
Graves and some friends were kicked out of the party after being involved in a fight. They returned with friends, including Smith, who sprayed the house with bullets, police said.
Three people were struck and injured, including then-21-year-old Terry Greenwood of Howland. Greenwood suffered a spinal cord injury and must use a wheelchair. The others sustained minor injuries.
Here's the concern
Smith has yet to go to trial, and Greenwood's family expressed concern Thursday that Graves will back out on his agreement to testify if he's released from prison.
Judge Durkin said Smith, 26, of Halleck Street, is scheduled to plead guilty next week to his role in the shooting. Once that's done, the judge will sign Graves' shock probation approval.
If Smith doesn't take the plea, Judge Durkin said he will hold off signing the release until after the trial, which is scheduled for March 21. Graves will be kept in the county jail in the meantime.
If Graves backs out and does not testify, or lies on the witness stand, he'll be sent back to prison, the judge said.
Gentile said Graves has not changed his mind and will fulfill his obligation to testify if needed.
Greenwood said the injury has changed his life forever, leaving him unable to do routine tasks such as getting a drink of water or going to the bathroom without assistance. He was torn about Graves' possible release.
"I don't know what the answers are as to how long a person ought to be in prison," he said.
Smith's trial has been delayed because of unrelated assault charges in Pennsylvania, where he was convicted and sentenced to 10 to 25 years in prison in August 2000.