A Kettering teenager convicted in adult court of the death of a Fairmont student could get his case returned to juvenile court, something a Dayton Daily News investigation found was rare locally and could result in a lesser sentence.
Lawyers for Kylen Gregory requested the transfer back to juvenile court this week after his Nov. 9 conviction on lesser charges in a murder trial in the 2016 shooting of Ronnie Bowers.
Jim Cole, Montgomery County’s juvenile court administrator, said the transfer could mean a sentence of fewer than three years for Gregory, found guilty by jurors of reckless homicide and a firearms charge.
“It’s a real quirky part of the law,” Cole said, noting the transfer would be “a very unusual occurrence.”
Cole thinks the law requires the case be returned to juvenile court, which could result in the 18-year-old Gregory’s release on his 21st birthday. However, he said, juvenile court could eventually move the case back to common pleas court, where Gregory could face more than 15 years in prison.
County prosecutors acknowledged Thursday that a transfer to juvenile court is likely. Prosecutors also said they want to retry Gregory on five felonious assault counts on which the jury deadlocked.
“It is our position that under Ohio law, we must first complete that trial, then Judge (Dennis) Langer will sentence the defendant on all counts he is convicted of in adult court,” according to the statement. “The sentence in adult court will be stayed, and the case will then be transferred to juvenile court.”
Attorneys for Gregory are seeking a “reverse-bindover” because the teen – who, like Bowers, was 16 at the time of the shooting – was not convicted of murder, charges that required a mandatory transfer to adult court, documents filed Tuesday state.
Gregory’s case went to adult court in the summer of 2017 after juvenile court Judge Anthony Capizzi approved prosecutors’ mandatory transfer request.
Under Ohio law, mandatory transfers occur for older juveniles who commit murder, are repeat felony offenders or commit felonies with a firearm.
“Although the initial transfer of Gregory to adult court may have been mandatory, the trial court lost jurisdiction of Gregory when he was acquitted of the charges that required mandatory transfer,” according to the motion filed by Jon Paul Rion.
Gregory testified he shot at Bowers’ car as the victim fled Willowdale Avenue on Sept. 4, 2016, with three friends to avoid a dispute. Gregory said he aimed at the trunk and the shot was intended to “send a message” after the defendant and four friends tracked the car down after a dispute earlier at AlterFest.
The initial dispute did not involve Bowers or Gregory, and the pair did not know each other, according to trial witnesses.
Bowers, called an innocent bystander by police, was wounded in the back of the head and died two days later from those injuries. It was Kettering’s first gun-related homicide since 2007.
Gregory was indicted on - and pleaded not guilty to - two counts of murder, five counts of felonious assault and one count of discharging a firearm at or near a prohibited premise.
The jury of nine women and three men convicted Gregory on two counts of reckless homicide and one count of discharging a firearm at or near a prohibited premise. The panel found Gregory guilty of those charges several hours after deliberations began that day. It could not reach a verdict on the five felonious assault charges.
The jury’s decision upset Bowers’ mother. Jessica Combs released a statement the following week stating the jury’s decision made her feel “felt like Ronnie died all over again.”
Langer told the jury on the day of its verdict it could consider the reckless homicide charges only if the panel could not reach a consensus on murder charges. The verdict came one day after Gregory testified, which Rion said was a condition the judge’s decision on the reckless homicide issue.
No sentencing has been scheduled in the case. Langer’s office said each side will file briefs on the transfer issue, and attorneys and the judge will talk further next month.
Gregory has been in juvenile detention since September 2016. He is being held on $1 million bond.
Gregory could face as many as 17 years in prison if he is sentenced in adult court for the three counts for which the jury convicted him, Rion has said. Any sentence in juvenile court, Cole said, would have him incarcerated in the Ohio Department of Youth Services until he turns 21, which would be in March 2021, court records show.
Since mid-2012, of the 77 juvenile local cases that have been mandatory transfers to adult court, only two others have returned to juvenile court, Cole said.
If this case returns, an amenability hearing will held to determine Gregory’s propensity for rehabilitation, Cole said.
The juvenile court set an amenability hearing in May 2017 after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled the previous December that mandatory transfers to adult court were unconstitutional.
During Gregory’s hearing that May, an Ohio Supreme Court with new members reversed the previous ruling on mandatory transfers, and the hearing ended. Capizzi transferred the case to adult court that summer.
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