Trial in fireworks case begins today

WARREN – Jury selection is scheduled to begin today for a Ripley, Ohio, man accused of setting off fireworks at last summer’s Trumbull County Fair and spooking a horse that threw a deputy sheriff from his saddle, injuring him in front of fans watching a rodeo.

Defense attorney Sam Bluedorn, who represents James N. McElroy, 67, operator of the Broken Horn Rodeo show, said he has filed a motion to limit the jurors from hearing testimony that the deputy was injured.

Bluedorn said any injuries have nothing to do with the fourth-degree felony fireworks charge.

”I still haven’t heard of anyone who saw my client set off any fireworks. They told him not to, so why would he go through the added expense to set off fireworks?” Bluedorn said.

McElroy was indicted in February on a charge of prohibitions concerning exhibitors and fireworks incident sites. He has pleaded not guilty and remains free on bond.

Judge Andrew Logan still must rule on Bluedorn’s motion and whether a jury can hear more about Deputy Allen F. Smith of Orangeville, who has since recovered from three bruised ribs, a punctured lung and a broken shoulder suffered after his horse threw him in the infield area of the grandstands area during the July 6 show.

He required surgery and still feels effects of the fall, according to deputies.

Sgt. Rick Tackett, with the sheriff’s office, charged McElroy with not having a license to set off fireworks. He pointed out when he arrested McElroy that detonating fireworks is controlled by state law, and even when purchasing the fireworks, the buyer is required to sign a waiver that the explosives are taken out of state within 48 hours before being exploded.

Tackett’s report also states that fair board Director Bud Rodgers and Bazetta fire Chief Dennis Lewis each told McElroy not to shoot off the fireworks and were led to believe fireworks wouldn’t be used at the show.