LISBON - One of the two brothers accused of stealing a man's vehicle when they took it for a test drive, George E. Faulkner Jr., was given a second chance, sentenced only to four years on probation.
However, Common Pleas Court Judge C. Ashley Pike gave Faulkner the sentence along with a warning.
"I have a feeling you may have turned the corner, but if you haven't, you will be back and you will go to prison," Pike said.
He reserved the right to send Faulkner, 27, state Route 14, East Palestine, to prison for 18 months, the maximum for the theft offense to which he offered an Alford plea.
His brother, Matthew Faulkner, 22, state Route 14, East Palestine, had his theft charge reduced to a misdemeanor as part of a plea agreement in Columbiana County Municipal Court last July. Matthew Faulkner was fined $250 and credited with three days served while sentenced to an additional 57 days for theft. He was also ordered, along with his brother to pay $1,000 in restitution.
According to court records, the brothers took the 1995 Pontiac Firebird belonging to Dalton Lappert on June 12. George Faulkner was believed to be the driver when he and his brother took the vehicle on a test drive from the 7 and 14 Truck Stop and failed to return it.
Assistant County Prosecutor Tammie Riley Jones said the brothers instead took the vehicle to Pennsylvania and left it on a friend's property.
The Alford plea denotes that Faulkner did not dispute the facts of the case, but it is not an admission of guilt. Jones noted he has not cooperated or owned up to his actions. Faulkner has multiple felony and misdemeanor convictions in the past. This time, she said he claims his brother took the car and then blamed it on him. Jones said both the car's owner and the friend on the property where the car was left stated it was George Faulkner who set up the theft.
"He has told me if he did this, he would have owned it," said George Faulkner's defense attorney Richard Hura.
Pike first heard statements from Faulkner's aunt, girlfriend and girlfriend's mother about how he has been trying to become an upstanding citizen, holding down work in the pipeline business and doing the right things. At one point, Pike listed the long list of crimes Faulkner has committed, but the aunt insisted Faulkner has changed since his last time in prison.
Pike then heard from Faulkner, who stated he should have contacted police instead of trying to convince his brother to return the car. He said he just did not want to get his brother in trouble at the time.
"I know I should have called the cops," Faulkner said, "but I didn't want him to go through the things I did."
Additionally, Faulkner said if he was planning to steal the car, he would not have walked into the nearby gas station with his tattoos showing for the cameras before they took the car for the test drive.
"What you are saying is 'I may be a criminal, but I'm not a dumb criminal,'" questioned Pike?
Pike noted he could send Faulkner to prison now, but he already has 79 days credit and would not be there long. Instead he gave him the chance of probation urging him to grow up and utilize the family support around him to make better choices.