LISBON - The Canfield father accused of domestic violence against his openly gay son was acquitted by a jury in Columbiana County Municipal Court Friday.
The eight-member panel took about an hour to reach a decision following a final morning of testimony.
The morning began with the defense calling the boy's mother, a counselor and chemistry teacher with the West Branch School District. She painted the picture of her son as a troubled teen and voiced concerns about her son's tendency to have relationships with older men. While she claimed she was not happy about her son being gay, she also said she did not resent it. Instead she said her concern was that there are appropriate and inappropriate relationships and behaviors.
The now-17-year-old boy was 15 at the time of the incident which brought police to the Trinity Playhouse in Lisbon on July 30, 2011. That is when the boy had claimed his father punched him in the face and later shoved him through the tempered glass back window of the family's minivan.
The mother testified to other prior instances where she said the boy had been violent. Those included coming after her when she caught him on the Internet after the privilege had been taken away and her physically taking a camera from him when she felt he was up to something with it.
On cross examination, Assistant Prosecutor Virginia Barborak questioned the mother about comments she had allegedly made to her son, vulgar slurs about his sexuality, threatening him to drop the charges and telling him he should kill himself. The mother denied them all.
Following the mother's testimony, Barborak put the teenage boy back on the stand. He provided his own explantations to many of the accusations that he had been violent toward family members. He continued to contend his parents were against him being gay, going so far as to put some of his clothes they did not like into a bag.
"They were pink and tight hoodies," the boy said. "They didn't like them because they felt I was trying to flaunt myself."
He contended one violent incident in the home came after the clothes in the bag disappeared, and his father wanted to know where they were, allegedly physically attacking him in the teen's bedroom. The boy said he had thrown the bag into the nearby woods for another relative to come pick up.
The boy also testified he tried to record his parent's actions in an attempt to prove what was happening in his home. He claimed his parents reacted violently to his attempts.
Defense attorney Constant Prassinos questioned whether the teen, who has not been in the custody of his parents recently, was enjoying his new-found freedom enough to lie in court. He began talking about things the boy has been allowed to do since the accusations were made.
At several times during the testimony throughout the three-day trial Prassinos voiced concerns about his inability to mount a proper defense, after both he and defense witnesses were cautioned, while the jury was not present, by Judge Mark Frost about violating the teenage son's rights as a juvenile during testimony. The boy's unpaid attorney, Connie Witt, there to monitor his rights were not violated, often pointed out some questions or comments being made by witnesses were inappropriate, especially since the case was not a custody battle, but a criminal trial.
At one point away from the ears of the jury, Frost asked Prassinos if he was deliberately attempting to cause a mistrial when the defense attorney tried to raise specific allegations that the boy's lifestyle had gone out of control since he left his parents' custody.
During closing arguments Barborak admitted the boy is a difficult teen, mouthy at times and disobedient. She noted if the father had paddled him that day she would have applauded it, but that the father's actions crossed the lines. She questioned the father's handling of the situation the night at the Trinity Playhouse, especially considering his background in law enforcement.
"Maybe he deserved to be spanked," Barborak argued, "but he didn't deserve to be put through a window."
Prassinos painted the picture of concerned parents afraid their teen's decisions were going to lead to him being harmed and attempting to protect him.
"I hope we still live in a country where parents are still left to deal with their kids," he said.