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Motion seeks to 'set aside' verdict against former Wadsworth teacher

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Former Wadsworth teacher Benjamin Klafczynski, right, is shown in court from July, along with his attorneys, Richard J. Perez, left, and Hector G. Martinez, middle. Klafczynski was convicted of tampering with evidence. BOB FINNAN / GAZETTE FILE

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MEDINA — Medina County Common Pleas Judge Christopher J. Collier said he would take the Labor Day weekend to consider whether to “set aside” a jury’s verdict from July 20 in a tampering-with-evidence case involving a former Wadsworth High School teacher.

After a four-day trial, a jury found Benjamin Klafczynski guilty of tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony. He was sent to Medina County Jail and was denied bond Aug. 8.

His attorneys, Richard J. Perez and Hector G. Martinez, filed a motion Aug. 3 to set aside the verdict pursuant to Criminal Rule 29 (C), which is a motion for acquittal within 14 days of a verdict.

“This is an important issue you’re raising for the court,” Collier said in court Friday. “Setting aside a jury’s verdict is big.”

Collier held a hearing on the motion Friday, which also was when Klafczynski was scheduled for sentencing.

Collier said he would take the weekend to look over the brief filed by the defense attorneys, which said “the evidence at trial was insufficient to sustain a conviction of tampering with evidence. Therefore, the jury’s verdict must be set aside.”

“I’ll see you at 9 a.m. Tuesday,” Collier said.

County Prosecutor S. Forrest Thompson said the defense attorneys’ motion was somewhat “rare” and a possible preclude to an appeal.

During the trial, Klafczynski was acquitted of two charges of sexual imposition, a third-degree misdemeanor, and illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material or performance, a second-degree felony.

“There was no transfer of photographs,” Perez said. “There was no transfer of nude photos with the female. He was acquitted of those two charges.

“I don’t know what the jury was thinking.”

Klafczynski, 29, of the 4400 block of Beach Road, Granger Township, was found guilty of tampering with evidence after he deleted the Snapchat app, on which he is accused of receiving an inappropriate photo from a then 16-year-old female student at Wadsworth.

Perez said there might have been evidence of improper discussion with the student, but there was no criminal conduct.

“I don’t think there’s any evidence that a crime was committed and that he did anything to tamper with evidence,” he said in court. “The issue here was whether or not he deleted information from the device itself that deletes information to begin with.”

Perez said at the time Klafczynski deleted the app, no investigation was being conducted.

“He wasn’t aware of any investigation,” he said. “We don’t think he tampered with evidence. We think the jury lost its way and there was insufficient evidence to convict him.”

Assistant Prosecutor Michael McNamara said in court that Klafczynski “tampered with evidence so it couldn’t be used in an official investigation.”

The conviction could draw a sentence of nine to 36 months and a fine up to $15,000.

Klafczynski, a former baseball star at Highland High School and Kent State University, was drafted by the Chicago Cubs. He played minor league baseball for the Boston Red Sox.

Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or rfinnan@medina-gazette.com.



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