The judge questioned whether James will treat people the same way he treats animals.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Zaccheus James is going home to see his little boy.
He won't be bringing a fuzzy little puppy to surprise his son.
James, 24, of Cassius Street, is banned from owning a dog, or any other animal, for the rest of his life.
He's not allowed to even be in the same house with one.
That was part of his sentence after he pleaded guilty earlier this year to dogfighting. He was also sent to prison for 18 months.
Judge Maureen A. Cronin of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court let James out of prison early Wednesday, granting his request for shock probation. But she reminded him of his animal ban and said she had misgivings about sending him home.
"It disturbs me that you have a child," the judge said. "I look at the way people treat animals because I think it's often a reflection of the way they treat other human beings."
At his sentencing in April, Judge Cronin said James has no soul and that his activities made her sick.
But James and his lawyer, Robert J. Rohrbaugh II, said there's no cause for the judge to worry about James' behavior with his son.
"He just got caught up in a bad situation, and he played it the wrong way," Rohrbaugh said. "There's no way he's going to mistreat his son."
As part of an agreement in exchange for James' guilty plea, Assistant Prosecutor Kelly Johns had agreed she would not oppose his request for shock probation after he'd served at least 30 days in prison.
Rohrbaugh said James has been behind bars for some 11 months, including prison since April and time he'd spent in the county jail while his case was pending.
"This was his major slip-up in life. He sees it that way and is trying to improve himself," Rohrbaugh said.
James said he has attended parenting classes while incarcerated, has a job waiting for him when he gets out and promised to walk the straight and narrow.
"I don't ever want to end up here [in court] again," he said.
Agent Bill Lesho of the Ohio Department of Agriculture's newly formed dogfighting task force attended the hearing and also did not oppose shock probation for James.
He said dogfighting is a growing problem across the state and his office is having trouble keeping up with complaints.
"Our phones are ringing off the hook," he said, noting that the task force needs additional funding for personnel and equipment to investigate the complaints.
There are two more dogfighting cases pending in Mahoning County. Eithyer L. Ramos, 19, of Coitsville Road, Coitsville, and Stanley T. Jones, 20, of South Garland Avenue, Youngstown, are set for trial in September. They were charged in connection with James' case.