Judge won't dismiss Youngstown murder case, trial delayed
A murder case that has been before the courts in Mahoning County for three years is being delayed again.
Following a hearing on Tuesday, Common Pleas Judge John Durkin ordered that the trial of Lavontae Knight, which had been scheduled to begin Monday, is now set for June 6.
Knight faces 11 charges including murder, robbery, and kidnapping for the shooting death of Trevice Harris in Youngstown on December 30, 2018.
Defense attorney David Betras asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing that he only recently was presented with DNA evidence that former assistant Mahoning County Prosecutor Dawn Cantalamessa possessed for two years.
"I have never in my 36 years of practicing law seen someone abuse someone and abuse the process so bad, this is such prosecutorial misconduct," said Betras. "She has lied to you, to me, she has corrupted this process and no more continuances fix it," he said.
Prosecutors opposed the dismissal of the case but did agree to a continuance of the trial.
"Dismissal is not the remedy. All that the dismissal does is punish the public by potentially releasing an accused killer, a potentially dangerous person," said Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer McLaughlin. "All it does is punish the victims' families who can't get any justice in this case," she said.
Cantalamessa is currently running for Trumbull County Common Pleas Court judge. She says the statement she gave 21 News on Friday, still stands. It says, "The allegations in Mr. Betras' motion are as false as he is disingenuous and pathetic. What is clear from the filing is that Mr. Betras is trying to once again squeeze a 2-time accused murderer through the window of reasonable doubt by attempting to try his case in the press. Mr. Betras is using his usual and customary bullying tactics to defame me."
The next pretrial for Knight is scheduled on May 4.