Mistrial declared in Ayers Street homicide case


By Joe Gorman

jgorman@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

A visiting judge Thursday declared a mistrial in the case against two people accused of killing a man on an East Side street last February.

Judge H.F. Inderlied Jr. made the decision after prosecutors dismissed all charges against Angel Bell, 20, one of the people charged with the death of Jason Fonseca of Ayers Street.

In exchange for the charges being dismissed against Bell, who was represented by David Betras, she must testify against Kimani Hodges, 20, the other defendant, when or if the case resumes.

Hodges remains in custody in the county jail.

Those charges were dismissed because Judge Inderlied ruled the testimony of a prosecution witness from earlier in the day be stricken from the record because he refused to testify during cross-examination.

Hodges’ attorney, Tony Meranto, asked the testimony in the state’s case be stricken from the record because he did not get a chance to adequately cross-examine the witness.

Judge Inderlied agreed with Meranto and granted that motion. Meranto then asked for the mistrial and asked that his client be released because of double jeopardy.

Meranto said double jeopardy applied because a jury was sworn in. Jury selection was completed Tuesday and testimony began Wednesday.

Judge Inderlied granted the mistrial request but said he would not rule on the jeopardy issue.

Prosecutors said they do not think double jeopardy applies because the trial was halted because of the actions of the witness, not their own actions.

Fonseca was shot and killed Feb. 17, 2016, in front of his home. Prosecutors said in opening statements Wednesday he was killed because he and Bell, who once dated, had shared a car but Bell wrecked the car and Fonseca took it back.

Prosecutors said Bell threatened Fonseca, then took Hodges with her to Fonseca’s home, where Fonseca was shot nine times.

Meranto also asked for the mistrial because he needed time to prepare a defense for whatever statement Bell would give to prosecutors before trial.

Hodges appeared noticeably upset after the proceedings; at one point he pulled away from a deputy sheriff trying to handcuff him.

This is the second time proceedings in the case have been halted.

In late November, jurors were called for selection only to be sent home after a prosecution witness eluded U.S. marshals who were looking for him by running from them after a car chase in Boardman. The witness ultimately surrendered to authorities a few days later.

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