Inmate turns on another during hearing before Judge Frost

LISBON – One county jail inmate turned on another during a hearing before Judge Mark Frost Thursday afternoon in Columbiana County Municipal Court.

Todd A. Kirtley, a defendant who had waived his rights to a preliminary hearing on a theft charge, remained in custody and sitting in the jury box during the next hearing.

Steven J. Byers, who was appearing next on first-degree misdemeanor charges of aggravated menacing and assault, was in the process of pleading no contest to the charges as part of a plea deal.

Byers, 19, Lower Elkton Road, Leetonia, is accused of pulling a folding knife while arguing with his 17-year-old girlfriend and while holding it to her throat, threatened to slice her throat for reportedly refusing to have sex with him at that time on May 25.

Additionally, Byers is accused of striking her in the face, grabbing her around the neck, bruising her arm, throwing her against a pole and pushing her against a parked vehicle at the Columbiana Public Library where they had met on June 3 to exchange property.

Assistant County Prosecutor Don Humphrey Jr. said he was recommending a fine of $150 on each charge and a sentence of 180 days in jail with credit for nine served and 171 days suspended. Humphrey said the 17-year-old victim and her family, who were in the courtroom were all in agreement with the plea deal.

Kirtley at that point, piped up and said Byers “openly admitted and bragged about it in jail.”

When asked by Frost to respond to Kirtley’s comments, Byers denied bragging.

“I didn’t brag about it,” he said. “I said this is what happened.”

Frost asked Humphrey to speak with the victim in the case and her family to see if the statements made by Kirtley or Byers changed their opinion on the deal.

Defense attorney Eric Kibler, who had represented both Kirtley and Byers pointed out he was now finding himself in the difficult position of having to impeach the credibility of one of his own clients, a man who is not under oath and may have something against Byers.

After Kirtley was taken into the back holding area, Kibler presented to Frost a letter Byers reportedly wrote earlier, stating his remorse and apologizing for what had happened.

Humphrey also noted he has been practicing law for 35 years and had never seen something like this happen before. Humphrey said whether or not Kirtley was telling the “Gods truth or a fabrication” he did not feel the statements should be allowed.

Frost noted the statements were made and he could not pretend nothing was said, but also said it did not have take the statements into consideration when determining whether or not to change the plea agreement.

It was also noted by Kibler, that Kirtley claims to know both Frost and Judge Carol Robb well, a statement Frost refuted by stating he knows them well because he has often been a defendant.

Humphrey noted if Byers did not learn from his mistakes and commits another crime, he would quickly recommend he serve the entire suggested 171 days of suspended jail time. Frost decided to go along with the plea agreement.

Kirtley, 30, Alice Street, East Palestine, is charged with theft for allegedly taking two laser transits from an unlocked trailer at a job sight on Peace Valley Road. The transits, owned by Wade Pol Construction, are valued at $3,935. He was bound over to the grand jury and his bond reduced so he can also be released on his own recognizance.