Hunting violation draws prison time

Prosecution and judge lessen term for man whose child recently died

Kasen Smith, right, stands with his attorney, Tom Zena, on Tuesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. He was sentenced to two years in prison for hunting violations in December 2020 when he fired a rifle in an area where he was not allowed, hitting a man in the foot in his home. Staff photo / Ed Runyan

YOUNGSTOWN — Kasen J. Smith, 26, of Lake Park Boulevard in Sebring, was sentenced to two years in prison Tuesday on hunting violations in North Lima in December 2020 that resulted in a man being shot in the foot while in his home.

Prosecutors recommended that Smith get four years in prison after he pleaded guilty May 12 in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to discharging a firearm on or near prohibited premises, with a mandatory one-year gun specification, injuring a person while hunting, hunting without permission and violating hunting ordinances.

The victim’s wife and baby were in the room at the time, but were not hit.

The gunfire was prohibited because of its proximity to Market Street and a nursing home, prosecutors said. The gunshot crossed Market Street.

But on Tuesday, Mike Yacovone, county assistant prosecutor, expressed a desire to allow Smith the possibility of leaving prison early because of a family tragedy involving a vehicle June 19, when Smith’s 18-month-old son died.

During the hearing, Smith became emotional, wiping away tears, especially when his attorney, Tom Zena, mentioned that Smith’s “very young son was killed while we were awaiting sentencing in an accident involving a family member in the home. So the family is a complete wreck.”

When Judge John Durkin started to discuss the sentence, he told Smith, “I am sorry for your loss. Sometimes the law is written in a way, quite frankly, that we wish we could change.

“Sometimes we are forced to do things that, when taking in the whole picture, we wish we didn’t have to do.”

He apparently was referring to a requirement that Smith spend at least one year in prison on the specification that a gun was used in the commission of a crime before serving any additional prison time and before he is eligible for early release from prison.

But in a brief discussion at the bench with the judge and Zena, Yacovone recommended a way to sentence Smith that would allow the judge to grant judicial release to Smith after one year served in prison instead of the 18 months that was anticipated earlier.

The change was to recommend a one-year sentence on discharging a firearm, in addition to the one-year gun specification, instead of three years on the discharging a firearm. That allowed Smith potentially to get out after one year.

Durkin approved the recommendation and sentenced Smith to two years in prison. Smith was taken in handcuffs from the courtroom to begin serving his sentence.

The judge said he appreciates the “courage of a prosecutor to take a look at the entire case and make a recommendation that they believe is appropriate.”

Smith paid $10,000 in restitution to the victim for his medical bills near the time of the plea, and Durkin ordered that Smith’s firearm be forfeited to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

“He’s probably already gone through the worst possible thing,” Yacovone said of Smith’s son’s death after the hearing.


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