THEFT CASE Deputy awaits new court date
The sheriff said the deputy reported off sick and hasn't been back to work.
AUSTINTOWN -- Trial has been delayed for Mahoning County Deputy Sheriff Jeffrey L. Haney II, who is accused of stealing eight 50-pound bags of ice melt from the sidewalk of Sears Hardware Store.
Haney, 36, of Youngstown, appeared in Mahoning County Area Court Monday afternoon for a final pretrial on the misdemeanor theft charge. If convicted, Haney faces up to six months in jail and $1,000 fine. He would also face disciplinary action at the sheriff's department.
Haney's Youngstown attorney, James S. Gentile, withdrew his request for the jury trial that had been set for March 18. Judge David A. D'Apolito noted that, had Haney accepted a plea bargain, it included a recommendation for a 30-day suspended jail sentence and community service.
Gentile acknowledged the terms of the potential plea bargain.
Judge D'Apolito then granted Gentile's request that the trial, without a jury, not be heard for at least 90 days because his client is under doctor's care. A new trial date was expected to be set today.
Sheriff Randall A. Wellington said Monday that Haney called off sick on Dec. 1, 2004, used all his sick days, and has been off the payroll since Jan. 11. The sheriff said he didn't know Haney's ailment and has no report of Haney's being injured at work.
After court, Gentile said 90 days will give his client time to consider all his options. The lawyer said Haney is under doctor's care but wasn't sure of the reason; he believes it is related to a work injury.
When arrested Nov. 25, 2004 (Thanksgiving Day), Haney was given the option of working in the jail pending the outcome of his case or going on unpaid leave. The deputy, hired July 24, 2000, chose to work, the sheriff said at the time.
Austintown Patrolman Joseph Wojciak, working a private detail in uniform Thanksgiving Day at Wal-Mart, 6001 Mahoning Ave., said he saw a 1989 red Ford pickup pull in front of the closed Sears store nearby and a man -- later identified as Haney -- toss items into the truck bed.
All three stores, Wal-Mart, Sears and Deals, were closed for the holiday.
The officer said he saw Haney make six trips from the front of Sears, removing bags each time, and place them in the truck bed. Haney then drove away and was stopped by Patrolman Robert Hutch on Fairview Road. Wojciak followed behind Hutch.
As the officers approached the pickup, Haney opened the driver's door and held out a law enforcement badge and said he was a Mahoning County deputy sheriff. Hutch asked about the bags in the truck bed.
Haney told the officers that he was in a rush and was going to return to Sears the next day and pay for the ice-plus melt. The officers quoted Haney saying: "We all do stupid things."
The deputy, according to the officers, also said that he made a mistake and would take the bags back to Sears or make payment when the store opened after the holiday. He was told to follow police to the station on Ohltown Road.
At the station, Haney was read his rights but refused to sign the form to acknowledge that he understood them.
The ice-plus melt bags, worth $85.52, were placed in the police garage and tagged as evidence.