Prosecutors argue against venue change in Kent trial
Prosecutors are arguing against Austintown Township Trustee and former resource officer Steve Kent's request to move his trial out of Mahoning County due to pre-trial publicity.
Last week, Kent's Defense Attorney John Juhasz filed a motion for a change of venue to move Kent's case out of Mahoning County, saying the publicity surrounding Kent's case will make it difficult to seat an impartial jury.
Kent has been charged with sexual battery after allegedly engaging in sexual conduct with a Poland Seminary High School student while he was a resource officer for the school.
In a brief filed by Senior Assistant Attorney General Kara Keating Tuesday, she acknowledges the media coverage surrounding Kent's case, but says that does not mean the court will be unable to find impartial jurors.
"Thus, herein the State asks the court to summarily deny Kent's Motion to Change Venue based upon the claim of presumptive prejudice due to pre-trial publicity or community prejudice because the above precedent establishes that newspaper and television reporting regarding the commission of the crime is not sufficient to justify a change of venue," wrote Keating.
The brief also notes that the jury selection should go forward locally first to determine if the jury pool has been tainted by pretrial publicity.
"In conclusion, it is a shame that Kent, who has asked for a jury trial, has so little faith or confidence in the citizens of Mahoning County that he finds it necessary to attack and disparage them in advance of a jury summons even being issued; and ask the court to presume that all potential jurors are a biased and unfair group of citizens who will exhibit a disdain for both their oath and jury selection process," wrote Keating.
A judge has previously denied a motion from Kent's attorney to suppress cell phone evidence in the case. Kent alleged that police violated his rights when they seized his cell phone during an interview with police.
Kent's trial is expected to begin next month on September 11.