Man re-enters plea agreement


By JOHN W. GOODWIN

jgoodwin@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

A Warren man has again entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors for kidnapping, raping and robbing his former girlfriend, burglarizing her home and fleeing from a state trooper.

Michael Harsch, 26, of Fourth Street, originally was charged with three counts of aggravated burglary, two counts of rape, two counts of aggravated robbery, three counts of kidnapping, failure to comply with the order of a police officer, illegal possession of a weapon and improperly handling a firearm.

Harsch’s jury trial was scheduled Monday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, but he entered into a last-minute plea agreement with prosecutors where the rape, improper handling, illegal possession of a weapon and firearm specification charges would be dropped. He pleaded guilty to the remainder of the charges.

Judge Maureen Sweeney will sentence Harsch at a later date.

Harsch, at the time of sentencing, could face up to 85 years in prison. Prosecutors, under the terms of the plea agreement, however, will recommend a sentence of 25 years in prison.

Harsch entered into a plea agreement in the case previously and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He later withdrew the guilty plea because, as stated by his lawyer, Anthony Meranto, at the time, 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.

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

The victim returned from work to her Myron Avenue residence March 18, 2009, and found that 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 woman 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 an Ohio State Highway Patrolman after a vehicle chase on state Route 82, authorities said.

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