Judge clears way for retrial


By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.

jgoodwin@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

A Warren man sentenced to 30 years in prison for kidnapping, raping and robbing his former girlfriend, burglarizing her home and fleeing from a state trooper will be back in court before a jury.

Judge Maureen A. Sweeney of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court imposed the sentence on Michael Harsch in March after a plea agreement between Harsch and prosecutors.

Judge Sweeney agreed to vacate the sentence after a motion filed by Atty. Anthony Meranto, representing Harsch.

Meranto said Harsch signed the plea agreement erroneously believing he would be sentenced to no more than 10 years in prison for concurrent sentences on all the charges.

“Because he believed that he would get no more than the 10 years, the judge, in fairness, vacated the sentence and allowed the matter to be set for trial,” Meranto said Tuesday.

Meranto said another plea deal is unlikely because anything the prosecution likely would be willing to offer would not be acceptable to the defense.

The charges against Harsch stem from two separate alleged attacks on the same woman in the span of a week.

The victim returned from work to her Myron Avenue residence March 18, 2009, finding Harsch had broken into her East Side home, police said.

Police said 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 and a shotgun before forcing her to drive to an automated-teller machine and withdraw $400 and ordering her to drive him to Florida, the victim told police.

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 later, the victim told police she came home 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 into Trumbull County, where he crashed the car and was captured by a state trooper after a vehicular chase on state Route 82, police said.

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