LISBON - An East Liverpool man with a lengthy criminal past and accused of taking a loaded semi-automatic handgun and marijuana into Wellsville's Platinum Bar in 2010 was sentenced to two years in prison on Friday by Judge C. Ashley Pike in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court.
John N. Lockett III, 37, St. George Street, East Liverpool, had a large crowd of people supporting him in the Columbiana County Common Pleas Court room, including three people who claimed Lockett has become a better person since the incident in November of 2010.
However, Assistant Prosecutor Tammie Riley Jones, who asked for a three-year sentence, pointed out not only does Lockett have a lengthy criminal record, including several felonies, but he has continued to commit crimes since the charges were filed against him in 2010.
Jones said at least four other charges are pending since the 2010 indictment was issued. Lockett has three misdemeanor charges pending in East Liverpool Municipal Court, where a jury trial is expected in December for charges of aggravated menacing, failure to confine or restrain a dog and barking or howling dog.
In May in East Liverpool Municipal Court, he pleaded guilty to obstructing official business and a disorderly conduct charge, which was amended from domestic violence.
Jones also reported he has had multiple offenses several times, committing additional crimes while charges are still pending for others. She mentioned several cases in 2006, 2007 and a lengthy record in Michigan also.
Although Jones mentioned domestic violence charges, defense attorney Doug King claimed his client has never been convicted of a domestic violence offense, but said those have been reduced.
"I have represented him on a number of charges," King told Pike prior to sentencing. "Mr. Lockett can barely walk outside of his home without being harassed by the East Liverpool Police Department. They seek him out and attempt to charge him with anything, even if it later has to be reduced."
According to King's version of why Lockett had the gun at the Platinum Bar, Lockett's friend had been in a fight, and he took it off his friend so the gun could not be used. Although King said it was not the best decision, he said he believed Lockett thought he was doing the right thing.
During the course of the case, King had filed a motion to suppress the evidence found when Wellsville police searched Lockett when they were called to the bar for an alleged fight. Lockett had been found with a loaded Colt 45-caliber semi-automatic handgun. With a previous trafficking in cocaine conviction from 2004, Lockett is not permitted to possess firearms. Additionally, he had 11 individually wrapped baggies of marijuana inside his pocket along with $165 believed to have been used in the commission of a drug-related offense.
At a February 2012 suppression hearing, a Wellsville police officer had testified he saw Lockett slap Sena Williams and had another police officer take him outside and attempt to search him. Lockett reportedly then ran from police and had to be tased to be taken into custody.
Other patrons, including Williams, testified at that hearing that Williams hit Lockett in the back of the head first. She also refused to cooperate with police and no charges were filed regarding the slap.
Following that hearing, Pike had ruled the evidence found on Lockett would be suppressed. However, an appeals court reversed Pike's decision in March 2013 noting under the circumstances at the bar that night, it was reasonable for police to frisk people for weapons.
Lockett then pleaded guilty in September to illegal possession of a firearm in a liquor permit premises, having a weapon while under a disability and trafficking in drugs.
At Friday's sentencing hearing Williams testified she is the mother of four of Lockett's children, and he has been caring for them the past four months while she has been in poor health.
Stanley Burt, his father-in-law and supervisor at an excavating business where Lockett has been working and the Rev. Ernest E. Peachey of the Second Baptist Church in East End, both testified to an improvement in Lockett's life in recent months. Lockett is reportedly involved with the trustee board of the church and has been "faithfully" bringing his children to church. He recently married Burt's daughter and has an infant child.
Calling some of his own past actions "childish and stupid" Lockett told Pike he would not do some of those things again. Pike noted Lockett's first conviction was a breaking and entering in 1994 and there have been a lot of charges since that time, including trafficking in both crack cocaine and cocaine.
Pike urged Lockett to continue to live a better life when he is released and consider if East Liverpool is a difficult place for him to live.