October 31, 2014

Medina
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Bornino trial: Attorney says bullets can’t be connected to defendant

MEDINA — The attorney for a 53-year-old Montville Township man accused of hitting two houses with bullets from an assault rifle told a jury Tuesday that police can’t prove who fired the shots.

Mark Bornino, of 5544 Windfall Road, and a friend were arrested Jan. 16 after police found them firing an AK-47-type, semi-automatic rifle at a paper target supported by a wooden sawhorse in Bornino’s backyard.

Mark Bornino

Police were responding to two 911 calls from residents who said bullets were hitting their homes on Parnham Drive — about a third of a mile away and downhill from Bornino’s property through woods and a field.

One caller said a bullet pierced a home and lodged in an eye-level microwave moments after the family had left the kitchen.

Bornino’s friend, R. Daniel Volpone, was found guilty at a trial two weeks ago of firing a gun over a public road, a third-degree felony punishable by up to three years in prison. He is in the Medina County Jail awaiting a Sept. 16 sentencing.

Bornino faces the same charge. Jury selection in his trial began Monday and testimony began Tuesday.

V. Lee Winchell, Bornino’s attorney, said during opening arguments Tuesday that police aren’t certain where the bullets came from that struck the Parnham Drive homes. He said it could have been a hunter’s gun, as one of the 911 callers surmised to a dispatcher.

Winchell told the six-man, six-woman jury that ballistics experts often can’t connect a bullet with an individual firearm.

“All that stuff’s really nice, but the ballistics expert is going to say it’s the same shape, from the same sort of gun,” Winchell said, “but can he say with certainty that the rounds came from that gun? No.”

The expert, forensic scientist Michael Roberts with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, testified Tuesday and said the bullets recovered from the homes were too badly damaged to be linked beyond doubt to a specific weapon.

However, Montville police Sgt. Matthew Neil — one of the first officers to respond — testified the bullet holes in the Parnham Drive houses indicated the bullets came from the direction of Bornino’s property.

When he went to investigate, Neil testified he heard shots flying past his head and took cover.

County Assistant Prosecutor Michael McNamara called a firearms safety instructor, Mark Walton, who taught a course Bornino attended in 2010.

Walton went over several gun safety tips — including knowing what lies beyond your target in case you miss.

“You say, ‘Know your target and what’s beyond,’ ” Winchell said to Walton. “How far beyond?”

“Well, that depends on what kind of round you’re firing,” Walton said.

Police said bullets from the type of rifle used by Bornino can travel more than a mile.

At the same safety course, Walton said Bornino’s accuracy with firearms was good, and he had a tendency to shoot low.

The prosecutor pointed out the range was 16 feet in Walton’s course, opposed to several dozen feet in Bornino’s backyard.

In a police interview played at trial, Bornino said he knew there were houses down the hill, but didn’t think he hit them.

“It’s impossible,” Bornino said. “I don’t know how the hell it could have happened.”

Police testified Bornino was firing without a proper backstop and from the hip, which reduces accuracy.

The defense attorney said his client was firing at a downward angle, so the ground would serve as a backstop.

Officers said Bornino was drinking alcohol, but Winchell said the alcohol was a “red herring” because his client registered 0.001 on a blood-alcohol breath test conducted by officers. Ohio’s limit for driving is 0.08.

At Volpone’s trial two weeks ago, his conviction hinged on whether the prosecution could prove he acted recklessly. McNamara said the same idea applies in this case.

According to Ohio law, a person is reckless when “with heedless indifference to the consequences, he perversely disregards a known risk” of harm to another.
Winchell argued in opening statements that’s not the case.

“We do not believe the evidence will show he ‘heedlessly disregarded a known risk,’ ” he said.

Bornino’s trial is scheduled to continue today at 9 a.m.

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com.