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Testimony begins in sex case of Steve Kent, former Poland Township, Ohio school officer, Austintown trustee

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Testimony began Thursday in the trial of a former Poland Township school resource officer and Austintown trustee accused of sexual misconduct with a Seminary High School student.

Steve Kent, 54, is on trial before Judge John Durkin in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court on three counts of sexual battery and one count of tampering with evidence.

Jury selection in the case began Monday and was completed late Wednesday afternoon.

The state Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting the case to avoid any conflicts of interest.

Assistant Attorney General Kara Keating said in her opening argument is the case is pretty simple: “boy meets girl.”

However, Keating said, the relationship progresses to a sexual one, and later, criminal.

“The boy isn’t just a boy. He’s a man. He’s 34 years older than the girl. He’s a school resource officer.”

They exchanged messages, then nude pictures, and began seeing each other outside of school hours, Keating said.

Then, a family friend who knew of the relationship told school officials. But that person also told Kent that she knew of their relationship and that she was going to tell authorities, Keating said. 

After that conversation, Kent deleted information on his phone about the relationship, Keating said. 

The victim also told a social worker about the relationship, Keating said.

Authorities also managed to get cellphone evidence from Kent and the victim. 

Defense attorney John Juhasz told jurors in his opening statement that jurors must decide based on the evidence, reminding them that they just pay attention to what prosecutors will show them during the trial. 

Juhasz said the state’s case will largely rely on testimony from witnesses, and juries must decipher that testimony to get to the truth. 

Juhasz also said that some things jurors will learn “ain’t going to be pretty,” but he added, “this isn’t a popularity contest,” saying that even if jurors don’t like some things, that doesn’t mean those things are illegal. 

“A ‘he said, she said’ case must still be proved by a reasonable doubt,” Juhasz said. 

Kent is accused of engaging in sexual conduct on April 29 or 30, 2021; May 20, 2021; and May 31 or June 1, 2021, while he was a person of authority employed by a school that the victim in the case attended.

The tampering with evidence charge accuses Kent of altering, hiding or destroying documents on June 6, 2021, while knowing that an official investigation took place.

Kent was indicted in April 2022.

https://www.wkbn.com/news/local-news/youngstown-news/testimony-begins-in-sex-case-of-austintown-trustee/ Testimony begins in sex case of Steve Kent, former Poland Township, Ohio school officer, Austintown trustee

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