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YOUNGSTOWN Disabled robber gets probation



Published: Tue, May 15, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Jones was shot in the neck and back, leaving him unable to use his legs.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Eric Jones said it feels like he's been in prison since the day he was caught trying to rob a North Side restaurant two years ago.

Judge Jack Durkin of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court agreed, and placed Jones on three-years' probation instead of sentencing him to prison. Jones pleaded guilty in March to one count of aggravated robbery.

"It is a horrible, horrible lesson that you have learned," Judge Durkin said.

What happened: Jones, 27, of Fairgreen Avenue, was shot twice by an off-duty city policeman who was working security at C-Staples Bar-B-Q on Belmont Avenue.

One bullet hit him in the neck and in the spine, said defense attorney Thomas Zena. The spine injury left Jones unable to use his legs and he must use a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

"He could have ended up in a cemetery, too, so I guess that's one way of looking at it," Zena said.

Authorities said Jones and another man, both carrying guns, kicked in the door of the restaurant around 2 a.m. Oct. 31, 1999.

Jones attempted to shoot Milton Eskew, an off-duty city policeman working security, but Eskew dove to the ground, pulled his own gun and shot Jones.

The second man escaped and was never arrested, said Terry Grenga, an assistant county prosecutor. She said Jones provided information about the other man's identity, but that's not enough to charge him.

Under Ohio law, the word of a co-defendant is not enough basis for a criminal indictment. Without a corroborating witness, the other man could not be charged, she said.

What Jones said: Before sentencing, Jones accepted responsibility for what happened, saying he made a stupid mistake by trying to rob the business.

"I have no hard feelings toward the officer because he acted in the line of duty," Jones said. "I was the one in the wrong."

Eskew was not in court for sentencing, but Zena and Grenga said he did not object to Jones' receiving probation instead of prison.

"This isn't a hardened criminal," Zena said of Jones. "This is a young man who made a bad choice and is going to remember every day of his life that it was a bad choice."

bjackson@vindy.com




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