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Akron man gets 3 years for fleeing cops

LISBON — Uriah T. James, 35, the Akron man who refused to stop for law enforcement two years ago while driving a stolen vehicle in the Salem area, was sentenced to three years in prison Wednesday by Common Pleas Court Judge Megan Bickerton.

A week ago, James pleaded guilty to three counts of fourth-degree assault, including one that had been amended from a first-degree felony to the fourth-degree felony. Those charges were for causing or attempting to cause harm to Sgt. Benjamin Dennison and Trooper Drew Thomas, both of the highway patrol, and to Patrolman John Brooks of the Salem Police Department.

Additionally, James pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property, a fourth-degree felony, for having a stolen 2016 Kia Optima belonging to Philomena R. Fears, that had been taken from a parking lot in Akron. He also pleaded guilty to failure to comply with an order or signal of a police officer, a third-degree felony; vandalism, a fifth-degree felony; harassment with a bodily substance, a third-degree felony; and two misdemeanor charges of OVI and driving under suspension.

The three-year sentence was recommended by Assistant County Prosecutor Tammie Riley Jones, who talked about the reckless speeds James drove for more than 10 miles while impaired in February 2019, as well as how many law enforcement officers were needed to help subdue him once he was stopped.

James’ defense attorney, Thomas Zena, said he was not going to talk about how James claimed he was beaten up and in his opinion those officers were doing their job. Zena said James violated the law, but it could have turned out worse. In his conversations with James, Zena said he is not an unintelligent person, but unfortunately one who needs to realize he needs to address his mental health issues.

James, who had interrupted several times during his plea hearing a week ago, thanked Bickerton for listening to him. He described what happened differently than Jones, but admitted to some traffic violations. He also claimed the authorities were very aggressive taking him into custody.

Bickerton said she has reviewed the video of the traffic chase and stop as promised, noting there were times when James could have peaceably stopped, but instead he pulled over, waited for the trooper to get out of the vehicle and then “punched it.” Additionally, she said he put others at risk by his driving and threw items out of the windows. Finally, he became combative with them once they got his vehicle stopped using a “defensive” driving technique.

“Every day officers put their lives on the line,” Bickerton said. “I have the utmost respect for law enforcement.”

James said he takes responsiblity for some of it, but believes after serving about two years at the county jail he has already paid for it and he was requesting time served.

While James reportedly has been no problem at the county jail, Bickerton said she has reports that said he does not behave when he has been to prison before.

“I have changed the person I was,” James said. “I’ve had a spiritual awakening of sorts. I’ve been there (at the jail) longer than any of them. The assistant warden is now the warden. They love me there.”

Bickerton sentenced James to three years with credit for 781 days already served, leaving him about 14 months left to serve. His license has been suspended for five years and he was fined $375 for the OVI offense. He may be required to pay more than $3,700 in restitution believed to be for damages to the highway patrol cruiser.

djohnson@mojonews.com

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