The Struthers man went to prison in December.
YOUNGSTOWN -- A common pleas judge granted a request for early release from prison for a Struthers man convicted last year for helping his son run a cocaine operation.
Judge Jack Durkin of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court ordered Larry Gentile, 51, of Clingan Road, to be released from prison Tuesday and immediately placed him in a six-month drug rehabilitation program through Community Corrections Association's halfway facility on Market Street.
Gentile had served seven months in prison on charges of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and attempting to fund a drug transaction. Judge Durkin sentenced him in November 2004 to concurrent three-year terms on those charges.
Gentile was ordered to report to the county jail in December to be taken to the Lorain Correctional Institution in Grafton.
His lawyer, Douglas B. Taylor, filed a motion on Gentile's behalf for the early release.
Cleaning up his life
Authorities said Gentile was part of a ring that provided cocaine to people in Poland, Struthers, Boardman and Youngstown.
Judge Durkin said there was no evidence to refute the fact that Gentile was a law-abiding citizen for most of his life. Medical documentation showed he was injured at work and was involved in a car crash in 1995.
His doctor prescribed OxyContin for the pain and, unfortunately, Gentile became addicted to the drug, "and his life spiraled out of control, leading to his criminal behavior."
The judge said the purposes and principles of sentencing require him to balance three criteria -- to punish the offender, protect the public and ensure the defendant does not repeat his criminal conduct.
"Because it appears the only reason for his criminal activity is his addiction, it appears clear that if he stays clean, no further crime will be committed," Judge Durkin said.
He said that if the six-month program at CCA works, "hopefully, I won't see him again in the criminal justice system."
Gentile's son, Christopher, 31, was believed to be the leader of the operation. He is serving a 10-year sentence after pleading guilty to drug charges in December 2002.
The Mahoning Valley Drug Task Force investigated the case. Task force officials said Larry Gentile built a secret room in the basement of his house that was used as a distribution and packaging hub for the operation.
Christopher Gentile would typically receive a shipment of cocaine from a supplier and take it to his father's house. In the secret room, the cocaine was mixed with other white powdery substances to double its original weight, task force officials said.
The diluted cocaine then was repackaged and compressed to make it appear that it was in its original packaging.
Christopher Gentile paid his father every month for allowing the drug operation to be run out of the house, the task force said.
Judge Durkin said there was absolutely no excuse for Larry Gentile's conduct. He said Gentile was so high on OxyContin because of his addiction and probably didn't know about the secret basement room or that drugs were being sold out of his house.