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Prison times change



Published: Fri, February 14, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



We realize that jails are crowded, and money is tight and times have changed, but ... we still have to say that there should be room in the penitentiary for two guys who break into a house when the owner is home -- at least, maybe even especially, when the owner is an 85-year-old woman.

There was a day when that kind of thing would result in serious prison time. In fact, there was a day when a lot less than that would result in a long penitentiary stay.

On the page opposite this, there's a brief entry in the Years Ago column that refers to eight persons pleading guilty to various charges before Mahoning County Common Pleas Judge George H. Gessner in 1928.

Here's are the charges and the sentences they brought. Two men indicted on charges of stealing a motor vehicle, robbery and assault to rob, plead guilty to the auto theft charge and are given 10 to 20 years in Mansfield Reformatory. A 20-year-old man who pleaded guilty to stealing $230 worth of women's wear from a shop gets one to seven years in Ohio penitentiary.

A 31-year-old man who pleaded guilty to robbing a store and a 20 year old who pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property each got one to 15 years in the Ohio Penitentiary. And the two highwaymen who robbed a pedestrian got 10 to 25 years in the Mansfield Reformatory. A man who pleaded guilty to carrying a concealed weapon got 60 days in jail.

Tough for today

By today's standards most of those sentences would seem draconian.

But even by today's standards, the consequences of breaking into an occupied home have the potential for being severe. Aggravated burglary is an aggravated felony of the first degree, carries a sentence of five to 25 years for a first offender. Even the lesser charge of burglary is a third degree felony that carries one to two years for a first offense.

So what happened to two Youngstown men who broke into the Manhattan Avenue home of an 85- year-old woman while she was sleeping?

They got six months in a community corrections program, were ordered to pay $125 each for the damage they did, were told to stay away from the woman they victimized and were put on probation for two years.

The men were sentenced by Judge Robert Lisotto, acting on a recommendation by the Ohio Adult Parole Authority. Robert Andrews, assistant prosecutor, declined to comment after the sentencing. The defense attorneys seemed satisfied.

The defendants, Eric Smith, 21, and Ronald Trimble, 19, both said their judgment was clouded by drug use and apologized to their victim.

Maybe this was a just sentence by 2003 standards. But you have to suspect that old Judge Gessner was spinning in his grave.




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