By Peter H. Milliken
Security was tight for one homicide defendant’s sentencing.
YOUNGSTOWN — Two defendants who pleaded guilty in the same homicide were sentenced to long prison terms one hour apart in the same court, but under sharply contrasting circumstances.
Michael W. Lee, who drew a 30-year prison term and had been disruptive in a March pretrial hearing, was sentenced under extraordinarily tight security precautions for the Nov. 18 shooting death of James E. Dow, 28, of South Lake-view Avenue.
As a precaution, Lee, 20, of Cordova Avenue, was strapped into a low-slung wheelchair and wheeled into the courtroom Wednesday by a deputy sheriff.
Maj. James Lewandowski, Sgt. Thomas DeGenova and five deputies guarded the courtroom, with three more deputies standing guard outside in Judge R. Scott Krichbaum’s chambers hallway in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.
Lee, however, remained calm, showed no emotion and made no statement at his sentencing.
But his tearful and apologetic co-defendant, Edward Taylor II, 19, of Hudson Avenue, who drew a 22-year prison term, stood before the judge under normal court security arrangements.
Judge Krichbaum sentenced both men for voluntary manslaughter with a firearm specification and the robbery and kidnapping of Dow and for felonious assault on Dow’s friend, Emmanuel C. Bunkley, 26, of Youngstown, who survived being shot in the hip. Police said they believe Lee shot Bunkley.
The case of a third defendant, D’Metri Lee of Youngstown, who the prosecution said fatally shot Dow in the head, is still before the county juvenile court. D’Metri, who was 17 when the crimes occurred, is not related to Michael Lee, court officials said.
A fourth defendant, Aaron Sherrod, 21, of Stockbridge, Ga., is still at large.
Dow was found dead in the basement of 145 Thornton Ave., his feet bound with tape.
Atty. Douglas Taylor said his client, who intended to rob, but not kill Dow, called Dow to the Thornton Avenue house, saying he wanted to buy an ounce of crack cocaine from Dow for $950.
Edward Taylor was unarmed, had no prior criminal convictions, gave police a full confession and agreed to testify against his co-defendants, Atty. Taylor said.
“I apologize for my foolish act. I apologize for the pain and hurt that I caused,” Edward Taylor told the judge. Taylor apologized at length to Dow’s family, his own family, the city and the judge.
“My son was not an angel, but my son did not deserve to be killed the way he was,” the victim’s mother, Lawanna Dow of Youngstown, said of her son, who was the father of five children. “I cannot sleep. I think about this every day, all day,” she added.
“My brother was brutally murdered. ... It was senseless,” said Keesha Lofton, also of Youngstown, the victim’s sister. Lofton urged the judge to impose a 30-year prison term on Michael Lee as recommended by the prosecution. Family members wore T-shirts that bore Dow’s picture and said “RIP Jimmy.”
“This was a violent and vicious attack planned upon someone who was completely unsuspecting,” Judge Krichbaum said during Michael Lee’s sentencing hearing. “The victim was brutally beaten and violently and mercilessly shot.”
Deputies also had taken security precautions, including strapping Michael Lee into the wheelchair, when he pleaded guilty in March.
That’s because, a day earlier, he refused to enter the courtroom for his final pretrial hearing, and deputies dragged him into the courtroom, where he shouted obscenities at Judge Krichbaum.
Deputies had to subdue and restrain him and hold him upright before following the judge’s order to put duct tape over his mouth.