YOUNGSTOWN Parolee faces life term because of new charge
The defendant faces an assault charge while on parole for a 1980 murder.
By ROGER G. SMITH
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Danny Austin got out of prison in 2001 after serving time for murdering a North Side service station owner 25 years ago.
A trial this week in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, however, could send Austin back to prison -- this time for life.
Trial started Monday in Judge R. Scott Krichbaum's court for Austin, 47, on a felonious assault charge. Prosecutors say he hit a woman in the back of the head with a tire iron. His lawyer is claiming self defense. Austin faces eight years in prison if convicted on the assault.
But the even greater jeopardy to Austin's long-term freedom is what could happen afterward. He remains on parole for the 1980 murder of Steve Bona Sr. Assistant Prosecutor Dawn Krueger said the state parole board could send Austin back to prison for as long as life if he's convicted.
Police said Bona, 78, apparently scared off a robber at his Wick Avenue service station in February 1980.
Bona was chasing his assailant, later identified as Austin, down the street when the man pulled a gun and shot the business owner in the chest, police said.
Austin was convicted in July 1980 and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. He became violent and was placed in restraints after the verdict was read, according to Vindicator files.
Austin, who is black, complained the verdict was "white man's justice" and about how the lineup was conducted that fingered him as the shooter.
State prison records show Austin was released on parole in July 2001.
Prosecutors say that in February, Austin was arguing over money with a woman he had been seeing and staying with off and on. He is accused of punching the woman several times and later hitting her in the back of the head with a tire iron.
The woman, who testified she is about 5 feet, 2 inches tall and weighs about 115 pounds, needed 17 staples in her head to close the wound, Krueger said.
Austin also is accused of hitting the woman's daughter with a 2-foot-long section of wood.
Austin's defense lawyer, Ronald Knickerbocker, conceded there was a fight but that the woman was demanding money from his client.
The woman, her daughter and another man with the women threw rocks and sticks at Austin and threw bricks through his vehicle's windshield, Knickerbocker said. Austin feared what would happen and defended himself from the attacks, Knickerbocker said.