Defense Asks for Dismissal of Firearm Charge, Court Orders Evaluation in Vance Case

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The defense attorney for an Albany man who is accused of firing a gun on East State Street has asked for the dismissal of a firearm specification in the case.

Steven Vance, 35, was indicted on charges of allegedly improperly handling a firearm in a motor vehicle and tampering with evidence, all felony charges. He recently filed a plea of innocent by reason of insanity in the case.

Vance was arrested in February after police responded to a report of shots fired near East State Street and Morris Avenue, according to previous reporting.

Five empty shell casings were found in the roadway of East State Street and witness statements were obtained. A 9 mm handgun was allegedly found within blocks of the scene.

But attorney Doug Francis argued in his motion, filed Dec. 20, that the firearm specification on the charge of improper handing of a firearm in a motor vehicle is in violation of the Ohio Revised Code.

The code notes that the court “shall not impose” a prison term for for violations of divisions of the code unless the offender has prior convictions of aggravated murder, murder or any first or second-degree felony or has been released from prison or post-release control within the last five years.

Improper handling of a firearm is listed as an exception to the firearm specification under a particular division of the code, according to Francis’ motion.

“The defense believes that the statute could not be any clearer on this issue,” Francis wrote.

While Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn acknowledges that only one firearm specification can be used per incident and there is still a firearm specification with the tampering charge, he said the prosecution is still looking into the matter.

“We haven’t conceded (the motion),” Blackburn said Tuesday. “We are still researching it and checking things out.”

Also filed on Dec. 20 was an order directing evaluation of Vance’s insanity plea.

The plea was filed on Dec. 18, and the evaluation must be complete within 30 days. A representative of the Forensic Diagnostic Center of District 9 must examine Vance “to determine whether (Vance) is sane and to evaluate (Vance’s) sanity at the time of the alleged offense,” according to court documents.

The next hearing in Vance’s case is scheduled for Feb. 27.