Long criminal record gets burglar 15 years



The defendant was upset when the judge didn't go along with a plea deal.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A Struthers man who admitted burglarizing nearly 40 homes last year to support his drug habit is going to prison for 15 years.
William J. Harrison, 43, of Crescent Street, was sentenced Wednesday by Judge Maureen A. Cronin of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.
"I was just trying to feed a drug habit," said Harrison. "I was doing desperate things."
Police said Harrison broke into several homes and garages in Youngstown, Struthers, Boardman and Campbell. He pleaded guilty in November 2003 to 35 counts of burglary.
One of the counts involved the theft of a diamond ring and a riding lawn mower from an elderly man who had hired Harrison to paint his house.
"That's nice," Judge Cronin said. "You get hired to work as a handyman for some old guy and then you steal his stuff."
Harrison and his lawyer, Robert J. Rohrbaugh II, were upset at the prison sentence. They said the plea bargain they struck with Judge Cronin and Assistant Prosecutor Kelly Johns called for no more than 13 years in prison.
But the judge said when she approved the deal, she was not aware of Harrison's extensive criminal record, which dates to the mid-1980s.
Judge Cronin ruled that the 15-year sentence she imposed Wednesday be served consecutively with a two-year sentence Harrison received for unrelated charges in Trumbull County. Rohrbaugh said he has already served one year of that sentence.
What victim said
One of the burglary victims, a woman who lives on Richfield Avenue in Boardman, said she and her family were horrified to learn that their home had been broken into, ransacked and robbed.
"Knowing that someone had the audacity to come into our home in the middle of the day and take our belongings is sickening," she said.
The woman said some of her stolen jewelry was later found at a local pawnshop. Rohrbaugh said Harrison pawned some of the stolen loot for money to buy drugs.
Police retrieved some items to use as evidence against Harrison but told the woman and other victims that they would have to buy them back from the pawnshop. Ohio law requires burglary victims to reimburse pawnshops for money they lent on stolen goods before they can recover their possessions.
"That is the stupidest law," Judge Cronin said. "It's silly that you should have to pay to get back your own stuff."
She ordered that all of the recovered items that had been stolen by Harrison be returned by police to their owners, even if they were recovered from a pawnshop.
"The pawnshop is not keeping that stuff," Judge Cronin said. "It's not right."
bjackson@vindy.com

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