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City officials at odds over shootout case



Published: Sat, July 9, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The prosecutor said the case is convoluted and needs to be sorted out.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Police Chief Robert E. Bush Jr. said his request to have a Mahoning County grand jury brought in Monday for a special session to consider charges related to a shootout with police wasn't unreasonable.

Bush said that on Tuesday he gave Prosecutor Paul J. Gains a few alternatives to get the case before a grand jury to avoid the preliminary hearing set for Monday afternoon in municipal court. Gains rejected those alternatives, Bush said.

Gains, in reaction to Friday's story in The Vindicator expressing police frustration with him, called a press conference Friday to say there wasn't enough time to contact the grand jurors for a special session on Monday.

The chief said Gains did not want the officers to testify from incident reports of the event at the regular grand jury session this past Thursday.

Bush said the weekend would have allowed Detective Sgt. John Kelty enough time to complete his case notes of the crimes alleged. The chief said Gains wanted the case notes before presenting evidence to the grand jury.

The chief said the testimony of the officers involved would have sufficed before the grand jury. He said the requests he made were reasonable to avoid having the preliminary hearing.

Bush said it was Gains' call to not bring the grand jury in for a special session and the prosecutor had a right to ask for the detective's case notes.

Case presentation

In the story, Kelty expressed frustration with not being able to get the prosecutor's office to directly present the case to the grand jury Thursday or in special session on Monday. He also expressed safety concerns for Monday's preliminary hearing in municipal court.

Gains stressed that he wanted to directly present the evidence to the grand jury and kept asking Bush for reports of the July 1 East Side shootout, but never received them. Bush said reports of the shootout are available, acknowledging that reporters obtained them, but Gains wanted Kelty's case notes.

The prosecutor said he's not happy that the case is proceeding to a preliminary hearing, either. He said there will be sufficient security at municipal court.

Gains said all the charges need to be sorted out so that his office isn't faced with the prospect of consistently amending the indictment. "We need the reports," he repeatedly told reporters.

Bush said superseding indictments that amend charges have been done in the past.

Gains said the normal procedure is that a "grand jury packet" -- all reports, case notes and so forth -- are brought to his office the day before the grand jury meets.

Three adults and one juvenile are charged with firing at seven officers on July 1. The case also involves the theft of a car at gunpoint from a church secretary; houses and people being shot at on South Pearl Street; and houses and people being shot at on Grandview Avenue and a homicide on the street.

Heated exchange

Gains said Kelty's criticism was unwarranted because it is a "convoluted" case. The prosecutor said he was not personally contacted by Kelty, that the detective spoke to Marty Desmond, an assistant prosecutor, who then called Tim Franken, chief assistant prosecutor.

Kelty said he met in a judge's jury room with Desmond because he was the only assistant county prosecutor available on Tuesday. The detective said they reviewed police incident reports of the shootout.

Kelty said he stands by what he said in the newspaper, adding that it wasn't intended as a personal attack on Gains, he was just trying to defend the officers who were fired upon. The detective said the case is not in jeopardy.

Gains, called "convoluted" by Kelty, said he was surprised and disappointed by the detective's comments. The prosecutor said neither he nor Franken was contacted by Kelty.

Gains acknowledged the gravity of the charges and said he was willing to give up his July 4 weekend to prepare the case for the grand jury -- if he had the reports. He said Kelty's case notes are necessary to avoid inconsistent statements being offered to the grand jury.

Gains said the case is complicated further because an FBI agent also was fired upon and the FBI has no reports of the event.

The felonious assault charges pending against the four defendants involve seven city officers, not the FBI agent.

meade@vindy.com




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