Recanting affidavit claim confuses rape trial issues

LISBON – Questions were asked in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court about a recanting affidavit allegedly signed by the teenager who is accusing Anthony Mehno of rape.

After the jury left for the day, defense attorney Kenneth Lewis and Assistant County Prosecutor Timothy McNicol discussed at length whether the affidavit allegedly signed in July 2012 by the teen should be brought before the jury. McNicol claimed there is no original copy of the affidavit, only a poor-quality copy.

Lewis, who was not Mehno’s attorney at the time the affidavit allegedly was signed, agreed it was poorly executed. However, he argued that a copy is allowed to be used in lieu of an original if the client did not purposely destroy it. Lewis said it would not have been in Mehno’s best interest for this affidavit to have disappeared.

Testifying in the matter were the teenager; Anthony Mehno’s girlfriend at the time of the alleged rape – now his wife, Ashley (Goudy) Mehno; and county investigator Tina Dillworth.

Testimony showed there were differing stories about why the affidavit was made, the content of the affidavit and whether or not it was witnessed or notorized. The attorneys attempted to get to the bottom of all the circumstances surrounding the affidavit so that judge C. Ashley Pike can make a ruling on whether or not the teen can be asked about its contents when she testifies later before the jury.

Testifying Tuesday without the jury in the room, the girl claimed Ashley Mehno asked her if she thought Anthony Mehno might be harming her own daughter sexually. The teen said she loved the little girl and agreed to help Ashley Mehno about that issue, and she said the only reason she went along with giving the affidavit was because of Ashley Mehno’s concern that her daughter was being harmed.

The teen claimed the questions she was asked involved whether or not she thought Anthony Mehno was capable of harming the girl, but Mehno’s attorney said the affidavit involved the girl recanting her claims against Mehno.

Ashley Mehno, in her testimony, claimed the teen had contacted her on Facebook and wanted to “get this behind her.” She testified the girl wanted it over with, but was having problems because the prosecutor’s office would not allow it at that point.

Both the teen and Ashley Mehno testified someone else drove and they went to Youngstown to an attorney’s office. The teen claimed it was a Saturday, while Ashley Mehno said it was a Sunday.

At one point the girl said she became angry because the attorney asked her about what had happened between her and Anthony Mehno, and she told him if he asked her another question about it, she would leave. The girl claimed she signed a handwritten paper with questions and answers regarding whether she thought Anthony Mehno would have harmed the other child.

However, the paperwork presented in the courtroom on Tuesday afternoon was her recanting her story about the rape. The girl said it was her signature, but that she did not sign that paper.

Ashley Mehno said the attorney typed and read the questions to the teen and then turned the laptop computer in her direction so she could answer them. Mehno claimed the girl signed it on a computerized tablet. It was then reportedly printed out. She also claimed the attorney contacted the teen’s mother while they were at the office.

A witness’ name on the affidavit was John Woody Horvath. Dillworth said she interviewed Horvath last week. He said he has office space in the same building as attorney Reese Cartwright Jones, who was the attorney who had been representing Anthony Mehno. Dillworth said Horvath said he was in doing paperwork on a Saturday and was asked to witness the statement. He claimed he was introduced to a girl he described as having blondish or dirty blond hair. He did not see identification for her.

The mother testified again, stating she was not contacted by anyone at the lawyer’s office. She said she was concerned about why her daughter went and that she was only 17 years old at that time.

At one point, McNicol pointed out that Mehno had pleaded to sexual battery and then later backed out of the plea deal. The agreement reportedly was sometime after the affidavit allegedly was signed. He questioned Ashley Mehno about why her husband had agreed to plead and why the affidavit was brought out by their attorney then.

“My husband got bullied into pleading guilty,” Ashley Mehno said. She also claimed McNicol should ask the attorney that question.

“This is a very bizarre set of circumstances,” admitted Lewis to Pike after the four people testified. “Attorney Cartwright Jones seems to have the key to what happened here.”

Pike said he would like to hear from Cartwright Jones, noting he would attempt to get him to court before the teen testifies in front of the jury. It was also noted Cartwright Jones has hired his own attorney, Ronald Yarwood, regarding the matter of the affidavit.