In a trial on Jan. 16, the jury deliberated only 30 minutes; and determined that the intent to kill another person was not the case for Antonio Dewayne Smith, who had been charged with voluntary manslaughter. Instead he was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
One night in February 2012, one friend shoved another, causing Ira Lindberg Harris to fall down a flight of stairs leading from an apartment over the Irish Pub on Washington Street.
Harris was involved in a disagreement amongst their group after a night of socializing at the Pub. A disagreement between Smith’s boyfriend and Harris led to a physical altercation between Smith and Harris.
After the group had relocated to the upstairs apartment over the Pub, the ensuing disagreement escalated between Smith’s boyfriend, Ashton Thomas and Harris. While intervening on behalf of his boyfriend, Smith then assaulted Harris. Harris then attempted to assault Smith with a pot. Missing Smith, Harris struck another friend Trevor Pittenger. At that point another friend, Corrine Tork then attempted to leave the apartment, leading Harris out the door with her. Tork and Harris were at the top of the staircase heading down. As witnesses reported, and Smith admitted, he then shoved the victim as Harris’s back was towards him. Harris fell down the flight of stairs and suffered severe head injuries. Harris later died from those injuries.
Smith was arrested within hours of the incident and was later charged with voluntary manslaughter. If he had been convicted of this felony charge, he would have faced 15 years in prison. Having instead been convicted of involuntary manslaughter, a misdemeanor offense, Smith now faces a prison sentence of up to one year, and will be sentenced after a hearing on Mar. 25.
Circuit Court Judge Joseph C. Pomponio Jr., granted a request by public defender Dewitt Daniel to allow Smith to return to his home in Florida to await sentencing.
The Register-Herald reported that Greenbrier County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Ryan Blake said that while there was enough evidence to have brought a conviction of the more serious charge, “We appreciate the jury’s thoughtful deliberation, I believe that the jury felt that justice was served.”
On a final note, in what West Virginia Daily News reported as being very emotional testimony, there was no evidence that alcohol was involved in this tragedy.