Motions denied in kidnap, rape case

By John W. Goodwin Jr.

There will be a bond- reduction hearing in the case.

YOUNGSTOWN — A Mahoning County judge has denied two requests by a man charged with kidnapping and sexually assaulting a woman.

Michael A. Harsch, 24, of Fourth Street, Warren, appeared Tuesday for a hearing before Judge Maureen A. Sweeney of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

Harsch was indicted in April on three counts each of aggravated burglary and kidnapping, two counts each of rape and aggravated robbery, and one count each of being a convicted felon with a gun, improperly handling a gun in a motor vehicle and failure to comply with a police order. He has pleaded innocent to all charges.

Atty. Anthony P. Meranto, representing Harsch, said Harsch’s former attorney, Atty. James Melone, filed the two motions while handling the case. He said one motion deals with a request to dismiss one of the 13 counts in the indictment. The second request is to separate the charges.

According to police, the 23-year-old woman returned from work to her Myron Avenue residence at 7:45 a.m. March 18, finding Harsch had broken into her home, she told police.

Harsch raped her there at knife point, choked her, threatened to kill her and forced her to drive him to her father’s residence, where he forced her at knife point to open the door with her key.

There, Harsch stole a revolver, a shotgun and ammunition before forcing her to drive to an ATM and withdraw $400 and ordering her to drive him to Florida, the woman reported.

While they were in West Virginia, she said, she talked Harsch into returning to Youngstown, where he got out of the car.

A few days after the first reported abduction, the woman told police she came home at 10:30 a.m. and ran away after hearing someone run down her steps.

Harsch chased and caught her on the street, forced her into her car at gunpoint and drove her toward Warren, she said, but, when he disobeyed a state trooper’s command to stop on state Route 82, a chase ensued.

After fleeing for several miles, Harsch crashed the car and was arrested after fleeing on foot, the woman reported. Police said a revolver was recovered from Harsch before he was taken to Trumbull County Jail.

The chase and subsequent arrest in Trumbull were the subject of Tuesday’s hearing. The defense argued the charges for disobeying a police order should be dismissed because that incident and arrest did not take place in Mahoning County.

Judge Sweeney quickly rejected that argument.

The defense also requested the charges be separated and tried at different times because they are two separate occurrences.

Natasha Frenchko, an assistant county prosecutor, said the two incidents took place on a continuum and should therefore be considered one and the same. She said any time lapse occurred only because Harsch was waiting to catch the victim alone for a second time.

Judge Sweeney rejected the second motion as well.

Meranto requested a bond reduction for Harsch, and the judge said she would hear that request at a later date. Harsch is set to go on trial Feb. 1 before Judge Sweeney.

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