Youngstown man guilty of 19 child rape charges
By Justin Wier
A jury found a Youngs-town man guilty of raping a child over the course of five years.
Kenneth Thomas, 38, of Hubbard Road faced 19 counts of rape for acts that began when the child was 9 and continued until he was 13.
The jury, which began deliberations about 11 a.m. Thursday, came back with a verdict about 2 p.m. that found Thomas guilty on all counts.
Sixteen of the charges, the ones that occurred before the victim turned 13, carry the potential for life sentences.
In his testimony, the victim said the rapes occurred so frequently over the course of the five years he was unable to count the number of times it happened.
Thomas would tell a younger child to remain downstairs while he took the victim upstairs to rape him. The younger child testified and corroborated some of those details.
The victim, who is 15, recounted details about the acts that prosecutors said someone his age should not have known.
Testimony also revealed that the victim was diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease, about the time the victim said the rapes began.
In closing arguments, defense Atty. Anthony Meranto argued the agencies that investigate child rape work from a presumption of guilt.
“These kinds of cases are upside-down,” Meranto told the jury. “Reason and common sense are replaced by blind and complete trust.”
He said what happened to Thomas could happen to anyone.
“This wouldn’t happen to anyone of us because we’re not at home raping [a child],” Assistant County Prosecutor Jennifer McLaughlin responded.
Meranto argued that the victim’s mom concocted the story to remove Thomas, who lived with her at the time, from the home.
Several witnesses testified that the victim did not disclose the rapes until a month after Thomas had moved out.
“There’s no incentive for [the victim] to make up this story to get the defendant out of the house when he was already out of the house,” McLaughlin said.