YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Austintown trustee Steve Kent has been found not guilty of sexual misconduct in a case involving a Poland Seminary High School student.
The jury deliberated for about an hour before returning the not guilty verdict on the more serious sex charges and guilty on a tampering with evidence charge, a third degree felony.
Kent, 54, is on trial before Judge John Durkin in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court and was charged with three counts of sexual battery and one count of tampering with evidence. The trial process started in April 2022 when Kent was indicted.
He was accused of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a then-17-year-old student while he was working as the school resource officer at Poland Seminary High School.
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During his testimony, Kent repeatedly denied having any sexual contact with the victim, who earlier stated that she was involved in sexual activity with Kent.
Special Prosecutor Deinse Salerno said the victim’s story has not changed.
“She’s been consistent all this time. What is her motive? The State has given you ample, credible, consistent evidence” Salerno said.
Kent’s attorney John Juhasz told the jurors the pieces of the state’s case don’t all fit perfectly together and they have to go by the evidence in front of them.
Kent is currently an Austintown trustee. At Monday night’s trustees meeting, trustees Monica Deavers and Robert Santos read a statement to the citizens of the township.
“We hope today’s events brings closure to the victim,” Deavers read in part.
“While the conduct leading to today’s events is extremely repulsive, we welcome the opportunity to move Austintown forward. In order to do so, we will be in contact with the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office, the Ohio Ethics Commission and the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office to ensure the process of removing is initiated as soon as possible,” Santos read.
During the meeting, one resident spoke to the trustees about wanting to see a quick removal of Kent.
“Many of us have signed petitions to get rid of him,” said Steve Terlicki, of Austintown. “If you’re sincere about making Austintown great again, you need to move fast in getting rid of him.”
To date, it is still unclear when and if Kent will be removed from office.