LISBON - The trial began Wednesday in Columbiana County Municipal Court for a Canfield man accused of domestic violence after he allegedly attacked his openly gay 15-year-old son in the parking lot of a Lisbon theater in 2011.
The boy, now 17, took the stand telling a jury both of the alleged assault on the day in question and past violent encounters with the man he considers to be his father, but who he later learned is not his biological father. The teen said his father used to beat up his mother, throw him against walls, beat up his brothers and even threatened to kill him.
Early on July 30, 2011, before the alleged assault at the Trinity Playhouse, the teen claimed his father attempted to push him down a flight of steps, but he was able to grab the railing to stop the fall.
The boy was one of several teens serving as counselors for a children's camp at the Trinity Playhouse. Most of the teens involved had performed previously in Stage Left productions. On the night before the last day of camp, the teen counselors have a lock-in event, cleaning up from the camp and celebrating the end of three weeks.
The boy said his parents were not home when he left for the lock-in, getting a ride with a friend. However, he left a note telling him where he was going and called her grandmother to tell her of his plans. Sometime after dark, his father showed up requesting he come home.
Candice Cleland, director at the Trinity Playhouse, testified the father asked her to tell the boy he was not welcome to stay the night. She said she talked to the boy, not telling him he could not stay, but explaining to him she felt he should honor his parent's wishes. Cleland said she had not had any problems with the boy and had known him since the seventh grade both from her theater program in Canfield schools and at Stage Left.
The boy testified he called his mother and argued with her about staying also. He said his parents are against him being gay and he felt his father treated him different from his brothers because he was not his biological father.
"They told me (being gay) was unacceptable," said the boy, who told his parents when he was in the fifth or sixth grade. "They said I would burn in Hell or die of AIDS."
He was outside in the parking lot and a heated argument reportedly happened between the boy and his father. About that time a then 18-year-old Akron man arrived in the lot. The teen testified he had invited the man, a licensed makeup artist, to come, possibly to stay with them and do some makeup for the children the next day. He admitted he had not cleared the idea with Cleland, but had talked to some of the older teenage counselors about it. Both the boy and another witness, a 16-year-old girl, testified they were unaware of the rule against strangers staying until after that night.
The teen and the now 19-year-old man both admitted on the stand there was interest between them in a relationship, but nothing sexual happened. At that point, they did not know each other well, except by Internet and texting communications.
The accusing teen, the teenage girl and the man all testified about the sudden attack of the father. While the Akron man waited in the car talking to the girl, the father reportedly punched the boy on the left side of the face. The teen said his father then shoved him to the ground, straddled him and began to beat him. He admitted to hitting back in self-defense, but not to landing any blows. Finally, after the boy got away and ran toward the back door of the theater, the father allegedly pushed him into the back of a minivan. The back window reportedly shattered by the impact.
The boy testified he had a broken tooth and blood on both his arms and gums from the glass. The girl testified she could see the broken glass in the boy's gums.
The Akron man had followed the ambulance to the hospital, but the boy said when his mother came she called his friend "a freak" and made him leave. His mother also accused her son of ruining his family, even though he said it was not his decision to have his father charged.
Several people in the parking lot and in the theater had called the Lisbon police, who charged the father with domestic violence. The Akron man was one of them, which was questioned by defense attorney Constant Prassinos. He asked both the boy and the makeup artist why he had not come to the teen's rescue. The man, who is small in stature, said he feared for his own safety, so he drove across the street while calling police. At that point, he said he heard glass shattering, but did not see what happened.
The defense attempted to call Janice Burke, a counselor of both the boy and the family, who due to her schedule will be unable to testify when the trial resumes today. She was questioned by the attorneys without the jury present. Both Assistant Prosecutor Virginia Barborak and attorney Connie Witt, serving as an advocate for the boy, objected to Burke, who serves as program director at Daybreak Youth Crisis Center.
Judge Mark Frost ruled she would be unable to testify due to patient confidentiality.