Gamble seeks tougher sentence in heroin case

LISBON – With a number of heroin-related deaths in Columbiana County in recent months, Assistant County Prosecutor John Gamble asked Common Pleas Court Judge Scott Washam to consider dealing severely with Joseph J. Desarro during a sentencing hearing on Thursday.

A jury two weeks ago found Desarro, 20 Susan Drive, East Liverpool, guilty of all three counts of possession of drugs which he was charged. The drugs involved six Oxycodone tablets, five grams of heroin and 13.3 grams of cocaine. The drugs were found in a plastic bag where he was hiding following a foot chase with police.

“Foremost on a lot of people’s minds is heroin is killing a lot of kids,” Gamble said.”It’s killing a lot of adults. People like Mr. Desarro deserve to be punished, especially when they are found to have it in large quantities.”

Gamble asked for a three-year sentence. Washam sentenced him to two and a half years in prison. When asked if he wished to make a statement prior to sentencing, Desarro told Washam he plans to appeal the jury’s decision from Aug. 26, the verdict which followed a one-day trial.

Washam noted one of the factors in his decision to sentence Desarro to prison time was testimony given during the trial that when police approached a group concerned about possible drug abuse, someone yelled “run, run” and Desarro had to be pursued.

Desarro’s defense attorney Joseph King had asked Washam to consider granting him probation, noting during all the discussions about possible plea deals, Desarro’s main concern was not going back to prison.

But Gamble had laid out several reasons for Desarro to receive prison time, including a previous attempt at probation on a marijuana-related charge in 2012. In that incident, Desarro was unable to meet his requirements for intervention in lieu of conviction, Gamble said, when Desarro attempted to sneak drugs into the Eastern Ohio Correctional Center. Desarro went to prison at that point for seven months.

“I was skeptical at the likeliness of his success,” Gamble said of Desarro’s previous probation attempt, noting they had recognized Desarro as on the bubble prior to giving him a chance at intervention in lieu of conviction. “He did nothing to dispel that skepticism.”

In addition to the 30 months, Washam fined Desarro $10,000 and suspended his driver’s license for 36 months.

Washam said Desarro’s record shows his drug-related activity has “escalated rather than de-escalated.” He ordered King to file Desarro’s requested notice of appeal and informed Desarro he should fill out paperwork to see if he qualifies for a public defender for his appeal.