By DEANNE JOHNSON
LISBON - John Thompson Jr., the East Liverpool man a jury convicted of intimidating a witness after calls he made from the police station to his live-in girlfriend after she accused him of domestic violence, was sentenced on Monday to a 12-month sentence by Columbiana County Judge C. Ashley Pike.
"I want to go home," Thompson told Pike prior to sentencing. "It's killing me. My kids are sitting in the hallway and I can't even touch them." Thompson, 23, asked for rehabilitation, noting he is not only hurting himself , but his daughter and step-children.
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney John Gamble, filling in for his co-counselor Tammie Riley Jones who prosecuted the case, said he was familiar with the case. Gamble stated that when the case was brought to the prosecutor's office, he had the opportunity to listen to the taped calls from Thompson to Browning and others.
"I have rarely had the hair stand up on my neck as it did when I heard those recordings," Gamble said, calling them "cold, calculating and very offensive."
Thompson's attorney Richard Hura in his statements noted Gamble was not at the jury trial when Desiree Browning, Thompson's live-in girlfriend, testified she was not afraid of him. "The same phone calls which made the hair stand up on the back of his head caused the victim to giggle while on the stand," Hura said. "She had kind of a different interpretation of the tone and the words that were said."
Browning took the stand again prior to sentencing asking Pike to consider a low sentence or probation and renewed her statements that she is not afraid of him. In reaction to questions from Pike, Browning said since they got together Thompson has not been out on the street selling drugs and is the only father four of her children have ever known.
"There's been times I've threatened to take him out in his sleep." Browning said. "We just argue different than other people I guess ... I've gotten to the point where I've thrown everything in the house at him."
Pike called their relationship one of "kids and conflict" and asked Browning if she understood how much a couple fighting and constant calls to police tax the system.
Thompson's father and sister made statements prior to sentencing as well. Both asked for him to receive drug treatment instead of prison time.
"Give him the three years (maximum) hanging over his head and if he messes up, I will come in myself and tell you," John Thompson Sr. said.
His sister, Darla Davis, said she and her brother grew up in a home of domestic violence. After some time in prison, their father did a complete turnaround. While she admits she has been in an abusive relationship, she believes her brother should want better for his family.
Hura said his client continues to maintain his innocence regarding the charge and asked Pike to appoint another attorney to file an appeal on Thompson's behalf. Pike denied a request that the sentence be held until after an appeal is heard. He did grant Thompson credit for 194 days served.
"I'm not saying you are a bad person," Pike said. "Some how, some way, we need to send a message. You have a father who has set a good example of how to turn your life around."
At the same time, Pike had asked Browning about whether Thompson was with her when East Liverpool police claim he violated the protection order forbidding them to be together. Although she denied it, Pike pointed out he does not think Browning was telling the truth and Thompson shows a disregard for whether rules really apply to him.
In other sentencing before Pike on Monday morning:
- Dereck J. Barnhart, 38, Hull Road, Salineville, who stole a long list of items from a disabled neighbor in 2011 and fled police at high speeds in 2012, was sentenced to two years prison.
According to court documents, Barnhart went into Ronald Riggle's garage on West Water Street in September 2011, taking tools, metals, pieces of lawn or motor vehicle equipment, a forklift, an antique stove, lawn mowers, propane and gas tanks. Then on June 18, 2012, he fled from Patrolman Adam Little of Salineville police at high rates of speed, crossing into oncoming travel lanes, passing on a blind curve and continuing for about 8.6 miles. His convictions were for theft, breaking and entering and failure to comply with the orders of a police officer.
Barnhart blamed alcohol for his extensive criminal record, noting the fleeing charge was entirely caused by drinking.
"I'm ashamed of myself," Barnhart said. "I'm almost 40 years old."
A man Barnhart has done construction work for in the past spoke on his behalf, as did Barnhart's attorney James Lanzo, who called him a "hard-working young man" who often is steadily employed, who supports a family and makes child support payments.
Pike cited Barnhart's extensive criminal record as contributing to his decision to sentence him to two years in prison.
- Jonathan M. Cobb, 21, Roosevelt Avenue, Salem, was found eligible for a program at Eastern Ohio Correctional Center and sentenced to go there as soon as a bed is available. In the meantime, he will remain incarcerated in the county jail.
At a previous sentencing in mid-March, Pike had requested Cobb be evaluated for the EOCC after it became apparent that if he had received prison time or probation, he would eventually have no home to go to. Pike assured Cobb that following his time in the EOCC, where he will receive counseling, the probation department will work with the Columbiana County Counseling Center to find housing for Cobb.
"I'm sorry for everything I have done," Cobb said. "I'm just ready to move on."
He was ordered to have no further contact with his mother, unless she requests contact through the probation department. It was her home he was accused of burglarizing.