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2 men sentenced in chase-related cases



Published: Sat, May 6, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Both men reached plea agreements, although one wanted to withdraw his.

By DEBORA SHAULIS

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Christopher P. Aczel could barely speak to Judge Maureen A. Sweeney at his sentencing hearing Friday.

"I never meant to hurt anybody," said a crying Aczel, 34, of West Calla Road in Canfield.

He was one of two men sentenced to prison this week in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court for separate episodes that included police chases.

Aczel's story was "a sad case" of a person getting hooked on drugs and spiraling out of control, assistant county Prosecutor Robert Duffrin said.

Aczel had been using OxyContin and crack cocaine, his lawyer, Ted T. Macejko Jr., told the judge.

In a five-month span last year, Aczel broke into several pharmacies, led police on a two-county chase and escaped house arrest.

Judge Sweeney sentenced Aczel to 71/2 years for his 22 felony charges: three counts of breaking and entering; three counts of theft of drugs; four counts of drug possession; one count each of receiving stolen property, possession of criminal tools, failure to comply with an order or signal of a police officer, aggravated robbery and escape; and seven counts of trafficking in drugs.

Aczel also must forfeit his 1995 Jeep Cherokee.

It's not clear whether Aczel will qualify for judicial release, which the prosecutor's office opposes, Duffrin said.

December case

Thomas L. Peterson, 41, of Farr Street, Rogers, was sentenced Thursday to seven years in prison by Judge R. Scott Krichbaum. Peterson, who has a long criminal record, received one year for each of two counts of assault on a peace officer and a maximum, consecutive five-year term for failure to comply with an order or signal of a police officer.

A sentencing memorandum by assistant county Prosecutor J. Michael Thompson shows Peterson was driving a minivan with a broken window and expired plates Dec. 18, when a Youngstown police officer tried to pull him over on Indianola Avenue. Peterson fled, leading police on a pursuit through Campbell, Struthers, Poland Village and Poland, Boardman, Springfield and Beaver townships.

While in Youngstown, Peterson had a hit-and-run accident with another vehicle and put the van he was driving in reverse to ram a city police car. In Campbell, Peterson forced three police cars off the road. Police from Youngstown and Poland pursued Peterson on U.S. Route 224 in Boardman as Christmas shopping traffic was pushed to the roadside.

The chase continued into Columbiana County, until the van Peterson was driving went through a yard on Adams Road in East Palestine. Peterson and a passenger jumped out. Peterson got stuck on the driver's door and fell under the moving van, police said. The van ended up in a lake.

Judge Krichbaum overruled Peterson's motion to withdraw his plea, which he entered March 16. As part of that plea agreement, two additional counts of assault on a police officer were dropped.

shaulis@vindy.com




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