EAST SIDE VIOLENCE Detective: Grand jury needs case
There's not enough time to sort it out by Thursday, the prosecutor said.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The detective investigating last week's crime spree on the East Side -- including a shootout with police -- is blasting Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul J. Gains' decision not to directly present the charges to a grand jury.
Gains told The Vindicator earlier this week that the case is too "convoluted," and there wasn't enough time to sort it all out and have it ready for presentation to a grand jury on Thursday. Although the grand jury typically meets only one day a week in common pleas court, the panel can be called out for a special session.
Had the charges been brought before a grand jury Thursday, today or Monday, the preliminary hearing scheduled for Monday afternoon in municipal court would have been canceled.
"The case is not convoluted. We have identified everyone involved, and they are arrested," Detective Sgt. John Kelty said Thursday. "The only one 'convoluted' is Gains."
Kelty is lead investigator in these intertwined crime scenes:
UHouses and people being shot at around 8 p.m. June 29 at 220 and 224 S. Pearl Street.
UHouses and people shot at and the homicide of 18-year-old Deandre Edwards around 11:30 p.m. June 29, all on Grandview Avenue. (Kelty said he has identified the suspects in the homicide but declined to comment further).
UThe theft of a Cadillac from a Mount Zion Church secretary at gunpoint just before noon July 1 and shots fired at seven police officers by three of the Cadillac's four occupants a short time later.
Kelty said he met with Municipal Judge Elizabeth A. Kobly and discussed safety precautions for Monday, which include not allowing more than 50 people in her court, its maximum capacity. He said there will be extra officers in and out of court.
Suspects to appear
All four defendants due in court -- Jumal Edwards, Duniek Christian, Brandon Jackson and Antoine White -- could waive the preliminary hearing and have the case bound over to a grand jury. Kelty doesn't expect that to happen, however.
He said that the hearing will go forward even if only one defendant wants it.
White is accused of firing at a house on South Pearl, not at police. In juvenile court, Craig Franklin Jr., 17, faces charges of firing at police, and Adam Christian, 16, is accused of firing at a house on South Pearl only.
Last week's crime spree is reportedly the result of a feud between two families -- the Apontes and Christians -- and their associates.
Only police officers would have been needed to testify before the grand jury, Kelty said. Instead, subpoenas for Monday's hearing in municipal court will go out to two members of the Aponte family, the church secretary and the homeowners of 220 and 224 South Pearl, he said.
City Prosecutor Dionne M. Almasy said she's not sure what Gains' concerns were about preparing the case for a grand jury. "We intend to be prepared," she said Thursday.
Almasy said one benefit of directly presenting evidence to a grand jury is safety of the witnesses. She said all the victims -- not just the police -- will likely have to testify at the preliminary hearing.
"These are small courts -- things can get heated," Almasy said. "There's a big security concern because it's open to the public, unlike the grand jury."
Almasy said a "huge" police presence will be on hand, a use of resources that could have been avoided.
Kelty said the preliminary hearing has the potential of becoming a circus. He said there's also the potential for violence this weekend, with intimidation of witnesses who are subpoenaed for the proceeding.
Two requests denied
"I've tried for two days to have the charges directly presented Thursday and met with nothing but resistance from Mr. Gains," Kelty said. "I then asked to have the grand jury meet in special session [today] or Monday and that was denied, too, by Mr. Gains."
The detective said the case should have been given priority.
"I don't understand why [direct presentment] was denied," Kelty said. "We have a car taken at gunpoint and officers shot at with assault rifles. Those bullets don't stop; they continue for 300 feet -- just ask Ruth Slattery."
Slattery, 93, was shot in the leg inside her Grandview Avenue home June 29. A spent round from an assault rifle was found on the first floor between her bedroom and kitchen.
Kelty said those involved in the violence put the lives of countless people in jeopardy by shooting up the neighborhoods.
The detective said he learned that the four suspects in the stolen Cadillac intended to return to Pearl Street, shoot it out with the Aponte family "and not get caught by police."
Kelty expressed his thanks for police from surrounding communities who showed up on the East Side last week to aid in the manhunt for the stolen Cadillac's occupants. All four were arrested Saturday morning.