Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Kafantaris appeal won’t be heard

POSTED: February 2, 2010
Supreme Court of Ohio recently bowed out of a disbarred attorney's fight to avoid a 20-day jail sentence for contempt charges in Columbiana County.
The high court decided last week to decline jurisdiction to hear the appeal filed on behalf of George Kafantaris, whose actions, or some say antics, as defense attorney in the 2007 Andrew Irwin murder trial landed him in trouble with Judge C. Ashley Pike of Common Pleas Court.
Ironically, some of those same antics were noted as the reason his former client's conviction for murder in the death of Emily Foreman was overturned last fall. The 7th District Court of Appeals, which agreed with Pike's contempt finding and jail term for Kafantaris, cited ineffective counsel as one of the reasons Irwin's case should be retried.
An appeal filed by the prosecution to challenge the overturned conviction remains pending before the Supreme Court of Ohio, where Kafantaris filed a friend of the court memorandum in an attempt to stay involved in the case, even though he's lost his law license for life.
During the murder trial in March 2007, Pike cited Kafantaris twice for contempt, with one charge for failing to follow the court's order regarding some letters he tried to have a witness read into the record even though the letters were ruled inadmissable. The other charge involved a statement and gesture he made before jurors after the verdict was announced. Kafantaris waved a tape in front of the jurors still in the room and claimed, "here is your murderer."
Pike issued a judgment regarding the contempt charges in July 2007, which Kafantaris tried to appeal. The appellate court threw out the appeal because no sanctions had been imposed yet. Pike held a hearing regarding the sanctions in October 2007 and issued a sentence of 10 days for each charge, ordering Kafantaris to serve the terms consecutively for a straight 20 days in jail. He appealed again, lost, then appealed to the Supreme Court.
When or where he will serve the sentence has not been announced.
In his argument asking the Supreme Court to hear the case, the attorney representing Kafantaris questioned whether 10 days in jail was a reasonable sanction for each of the allegations against him. He also questioned whether the trial court abused its discretion in issuing the sentence for acts he felt did not interrupt the proceedings or affect the jurors' decision-making. He claimed the judge made a mistake by finding him guilty of contempt, referring to Pike's actions as "harassment from the bench."
Representatives of the prosecutor's office asked the high court to refuse the case, noting that during the murder trial, Kafantaris "repeatedly displayed disregard for the authority of the court and its orders."
The jail term for contempt will not be his first stint in jail since he served 10 days in the Trumbull County Jail last fall after pleading guilty to a reduced charge of unauthorized use of property for reportedly taking money from a client. He was originally facing a felony for grand theft. He was disbarred for life last year due to his dishonest dealings with clients in Trumbull County.
Irwin, who was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for stabbing Foreman to death in August 2006 remains in prison, awaiting a decision by the Supreme Court on the challenge to the overturning of his conviction.

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