Moments before opening statements Monday in the felonious assault trial of a Cuyahoga Falls police officer, prosecutors announced the officer had agreed to plead no contest to misdemeanor assault.
Summit County Common Pleas Judge Mary F. Spicer was giving instructions to the jury when the lawyer for Ralph E. Flynn III asked for a conference in the judge's chambers.
About 20 minutes later, both sides emerged and special prosecutors from the Ohio Attorney General's Office announced that Flynn had accepted the deal on the reduced charge.
The plea means Flynn can continue his police career in the Falls or elsewhere, defense lawyer Michael T. Callahan said.
In exchange for the plea, two charges of domestic violence and a felony charge of endangering children were dismissed.
Spicer accepted the plea, found Flynn guilty and scheduled sentencing for 10 a.m. May 1.
Flynn, 37, was arrested June 8 by Norton police after two of his three children, 10 and 12 at the time, were taken to Akron Children's Hospital by their mother, Flynn's former wife.
According to a police report, the girls were taken to the hospital for injuries they said their father inflicted during a dispute at his home in Norton.
Callahan and Assistant Attorney General Paul Scarsella gave differing accounts of what happened at Flynn's residence.
Outside court, Scarsella said, ''The only reason I agreed to do this was because I didn't want a 13-year-old and an 11-year-old to have to testify against their father.
''There's been enough dam
age to this family. To have a child have to go through that is very traumatic. And if there's a way that I can get what I feel is an appropriate resolution without having to do that, then obviously, I think that is the better decision.''
Flynn faced two to eight years in prison if he had been convicted of felonious assault — much more than the sentence for the misdemeanor.
Scarsella said he and his co-counsel had discussed a deal with Callahan for several days.
Special prosecutors were named in the case because Flynn's father, Ralph E. Flynn II, is an investigator with the Summit County Prosecutor's Office, Scarsella said.
Callahan told prospective jurors Monday that the defense was prepared to present evidence showing that the incident with the girls was a matter of corporal punishment.
Callahan, a former county prosecutor, also told jurors they would hear defense testimony from Flynn, his son and the girls' mother. Callahan said Flynn and the girls' mother divorced in 2006.
Callahan said that Flynn also did not want to put his daughters through the ordeal of testifying.
While Callahan talked to reporters, Flynn was seated alone at the defense table, sobbing.
He declined to comment about the resolution of the case or the incident, Callahan said.
Flynn has not visited with his daughters since the incident, but hopes to resume efforts to rebuild a relationship with them, Callahan said.
Falls Police Chief John Conley, who said in August that Flynn was on an unpaid leave of absence from the department, did not return messages seeking comment about Flynn's status. Callahan said he expects the Falls will fire Flynn, but not until after the sentencing.
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or firstname.lastname@example.org.