Lawyers testify in overturned case | News, Sports, Jobs

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont County prosecutors took the witness stand Wednesday to testify about sharing evidence and communicating with the defense about whether a 2005 rape case should be dropped or continued following a a trial dismissed earlier this year.

Fred Hlinovsky, 54, of 42780 Mount Hope Road, Flushing, is facing one count of rape and one count of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. The offenses allegedly took place at a residence in Holloway where Hlinovsky was visiting on August 13, 2005. The alleged victim – a 14-year-old girl at the time – was also visiting the home. They did not know each other before and Hlinovsky would have been in his thirties at the time.

Hlinovsky was charged after recent advances in DNA testing resulted in a possible match when the DNA was submitted for retesting in 2019.

However, Belmont County Common Pleas Judge John Vavra declared a mistrial in May during the second day of proceedings when it emerged that certain information had not been provided to the defense. by Hlinovsky. He also recused himself from the case because his son, Assistant District Attorney Joseph Vavra, may have been involved in the case.

Belmont County Common Pleas Judge Frank Fregiato presided. Defense attorney Zach Mayo represented Hlinovsky.

“There were three things that came up in the trial during the cross-examination of Det. Allar that we identified there in real time and that we felt did not provide ourselves,” Mayo said after the hearing.

“The first was a police report which was updated at the end with some information. The second item was the rape kit, that’s the forensic evidence they collect when someone comes in to do that assessment. It was pictured to us…we were led to believe it didn’t exist and referenced it in our discovery request.

Another piece of evidence was the Sexual Assault Nurse Assessment (SANE) conducted on the girl, from August 2005. The SANE report was apparently found inside the rape kit.

“We haven’t figured that out either, and that’s really the most important thing that we haven’t been given is the SANE exam,” said Mayo. “We seek a mistrial with prejudice due to the discovery violations. Our contention is that it is accumulating to be pushed into a mistrial. We spent a lot of time preparing for a different case. These items were available and were not provided to us.

Belmont County District Attorney Kevin Flanagan and Deputy District Attorney Chris Gagin spoke on Wednesday to testify about the evidence-handling and sharing process, as did Chief Detective Ryan Allar of the Belmont County Sheriff’s Office. A member of the prosecution would object or cross-examine while Mayo questioned the testifying prosecutor.

Wednesday’s testimony was lengthy, with Mayo going through several instances of communications throughout the case as both sides prepared for trial. During the testimonial points, the prosecution objected that the questioning was going down irrelevant lines.

“A big part of that is the nature of the lack of disclosure,” said Mayo. “Seeing how the process has unfolded from the time we filed our discovery request to the trial until today will give the court a better picture of the nature of the lack of disclosure.”

Flanagan spoke and said his office acted appropriately and tried to stay in communication with the defense.

“I know you pick and choose emails, but interspersed and mixed in with those emails are phone calls, there are court appearances where we discussed and chopped all these things,” Flanagan said.

“We’re talking about a particular form from 2005 that was generated by Eastern Ohio Regional Hospital (in Martins Ferry) and…this whole hearing was based on the difficulty and confusion of trying to access this single document”, Flanagan said afterwards.

“Normally we would assign cases directly from the hospital. The problem was that the Eastern Ohio Regional Hospital had closed, and given the time between the incident and the indictment, we were unable to obtain this document by citation to appear. It turned out that this document existed in another form that had not been produced before the trial, and that is why we find ourselves in this situation”, Flanagan said.

“The office continues to prepare for a trial in this case, unless the court decides otherwise,” Flanagan said afterwards.

After noon Wednesday, Fregiato decided that other witnesses would be heard Thursday morning. These included Hlinovsky’s attorney from the original trial, who has since withdrawn due to medical issues. Later that day, the prosecution and defense agreed that the witnesses would instead send their statements by affidavit. Fregiato will review the testimony and determine whether a mistrial would be declared with or without prejudice. If the trial is canceled without prejudice, a new trial date will be set for Hlinovsky.

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