New Waterford man gets drug counseling in lieu of prison for break-in at sister’s home

LISBON — A New Waterford man who broke into his sister’s home in late 2019, will get the counseling treatment he was seeking, but he will await treatment while held at the county jail after appearing “dope sick” in Common Pleas Court on Monday.

Ronald E. Harper, 33, Foxwood Lane, pleaded guilty on Monday to a single count of burglary, a third-degree felony, for breaking into the West Martin Street home of Johnna Cozza on Dec. 10, 2019. With both Assistant County Prosecutor Steven Yacovone and defense attorney James Wise in agreement for a request of three years community control to include treatment at the Eastern Ohio Correctional Center, Harper requested immediate sentencing.

Yacovone said Cozza had indicated to his predecessor on the case that she did not want her brother to go to prison, but wanted to see him get help for his addiction problems. Wise said Harper has been proactive in taking steps to address his problems.

But when questioned further by Judge Megan Bickerton, Harper said the counseling he has been attending has been online only due to the pandemic and does not include drug testing. He told Bickerton he could pass a drug test, but when she pressed him further that he looked bad and he was going to take one right away, admitted he had used in the last few days and was “dope sick.”

“I want to do better,” Harper pleaded. “I don’t want to sit in jail. I’m dope sick. I haven’t used in a couple of days. I’ve been doing good.”

Dope sick is a term used to describe how someone feels coming off recently used opioids. Bickerton said the last time Harper had been drug tested through the courts he had tested positive for both THC and fentanyl.

Bickerton told Harper the deal he was getting was a really great one and had only happened because his sister is willing to forgive him and loves him. But if he continues to break into homes the next person may not be so generous.

If he fails on community control, Harper is facing up to three years in prison for the burglary charge.

“I won’t let you guys down,” Harper said.

Bickerton said because she is concerned he could overdose before reaching the EOCC, she ordered he be taken into custody immediately so he can wait at the county jail until a bed is available at the facility in Wintersville.



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