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Defendant challenges ability of judges to ignore trial deadlines

YOUNGSTOWN — A city man who was initially charged with murder until a grand jury decided against that charge is challenging the ability of judges to ignore a 90-day deadline to bring him to trial on other charges.

Attorney Tony Meranto, who represents Aaron Clinkscale, 27, of Kendis Circle, filed a motion to dismiss two felonies Clinkscale faces. He was accused of being a felon in possession of a firearm and improperly handling firearms in a motor vehicle.

Clinkscale was arrested Feb. 6 in the Feb. 4 shooting death of Ramon Cooper, 29, outside of a South Avenue tavern. He has been held in jail since then.

Meranto’s filing in the court of Mahoning County Common Pleas Judge Anthony Donofrio states that the judge “is required to dismiss this matter” under the state speedy-trial statute.

The law gives a judge 90 days to try someone in Clinkscale’s position or the charges must be dismissed.

“Any delay in the State of Ohio’s presentation of this case is due entirely to the state and was in no way attributable to defendant,” Meranto’s filing states.

On April 9, Donofrio signed a judgment entry delaying Clinkscale’s trial past 90 days, citing the Ohio governor declaring a state of emergency and the president of the United States declaring a national emergency because of COVID-19.

“Based on the foregoing, this court finds that there is ‘just cause’ to continue the jury trial scheduled for this date” to June 8,” Donofrio stated in the ruling pushing back the trial date.

But Meranto said Wednesday he believes it is worth challenging whether the virus qualified as sufficient reason to ignore state law on bringing a defendant to trial within 90 days.

“I get that the Ohio Supreme Court has arbitrarily said that all deadlines don’t matter because of what’s going on (regarding the virus), but I think eventually that issue is going to go to the Supreme Court of the United States,” Meranto said.

Meranto said there are lot of people who don’t believe the restrictions the state imposed were necessary.

The only way the issue will go to the U.S. Supreme Court is for someone to raise the issue. The way it would work is for Meranto to raise the issue during Clinkscale’s case in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to preserve it for a later appeal.

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