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Robber’s sentence rankles officials

Published: Sat, July 10, 2010 @ 12:10 a.m.

Mayor, city prosecutor say 7 years isn’t enough




On the same day officials proclaimed a new war on crime, a man with a prior manslaughter conviction was spared the “substantial sentence” that city leaders said they would have preferred.

City officials expressed disappointment over Steve Gardner’s seven-year prison sentence he received Thursday for armed robbery. Gardner previously was sentenced to three years in prison for fatally shooting Larry Robbins, a former Youngstown Pride professional basketball player in March 2003.

Had he been convicted of all charges and specifications in the new indictment, and had maximum, consecutive sentences been imposed, Gardner could have been sentenced to 46 years in prison.

“The benefits of having him serve a long, long time [in prison] far outweigh the risk of an acquittal,” said Mayor Jay Williams, adding that he thinks this case should have gone to trial. “This guy should have been taken to the mat in my opinion.”

On Thursday, federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies announced they were teaming up to crack down on gun crimes throughout the Mahoning Valley.

The original indictment, stemming from a March 1 incident on the city’s South Side, charged Gardner with aggravated burglary; improperly discharging a gun into a house and aggravated robbery, with firearm and repeat violent-offender specifications; and being a felon with a gun.

Gardner, 26, of Ford Avenue, pleaded guilty only to aggravated robbery with a gun specification and being a felon with a gun before Judge R. Scott Krichbaum of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. The judge imposed the nonappealable seven-year sentence agreed to by the prosecution and defense.

Both Police Chief Jimmy Hughes and city Prosecutor Jay Macejko said they were disappointed by the short prison term.

“A much-longer sentence would have made the streets of Youngstown much safer,” Hughes said. “I would love to have seen this individual get double-digit years in prison — 20, 30 or 40 years. It would appear to be a decent case, a solid case for us.”

“When you encounter an individual like Steve Gardner, you always hope that a very substantial sentence will be imposed. ... He’s a dangerous fellow,” Macejko said.

“I felt it was a strong and very winnable case,” for the prosecution, Macejko said based on what he knew when he initially filed charges in municipal court. “I didn’t feel there were any weaknesses at the time I charged it.”

But Robert J. Andrews, an assistant county prosecutor, said witnesses disagreed concerning the events in the most recent case, and the prosecution faced the risk that a jury could have acquitted Gardner on all counts.

Jennifer McLaughlin-Smith, another assistant county prosecutor, said the seven-year term that Gardner received “was more than acceptable to the victims. That was actually even more time than they were looking for, so they were completely satisfied with the outcome of the case.”

She said she thought the case would have been winnable for the prosecution had a trial occurred. She added, however, “I would always be reluctant to say that anything is a sure-fire winner.”

Andrews confirmed that he spoke by phone to all three victims, and all said they were satisfied with the seven-year prison term.

None wanted to come to court or make a victim-impact statement, so the judge proceeded immediately from accepting the plea to sentencing, Andrews added. “With the facts of the case, it was a fair resolution,” he said of the sentence.

The mayor disagreed.

“I, as a mayor, would have been willing to take the risk of letting a jury decide,” Williams said.

“We would oppose any early release” of Gardner, McLaughlin-Smith said, adding the defendant was positively identified by two of the victims.

Gardner wasn’t arrested until about two weeks after his crimes, and the gun he used was never recovered, McLaughlin-Smith said.

Gardner’s purpose in committing these crimes was to collect a debt, the details of which are unclear, she added.

In the March 1 incident, police reports said Gardner broke a screen-door window, kicked in the front door and entered the house in the 800 block of Cameron Avenue.

Gardner, who was seeking a man who escaped from the house as he arrived, ripped a phone cord from the wall and pointed a long-barreled revolver at everyone in the house, police reports said.

Gardner then chased another man, who ran from the house, into the front yard, robbing him of $20 at gunpoint, fired five shots into the house and left in the car in which he arrived, reports said. There were no injuries.

A spokesman for Judge Krichbaum said the county prosecutors told the judge they thought the plea and sentence deal they made was the best outcome because they did not have a solid case; and the spokesman noted that Gardner likely faces additional prison time for violating his parole on the manslaughter case by being arrested on these new charges.


1Lifes2Short(3882 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

"Gardner previously was sentenced to three years in prison for fatally shooting Larry Robbins"

This amazes me. This dude is nothing but a cockroach that really needs to be squashed on the pavement.

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2VINDYAK(1824 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

For once I agree with the mayor. Take it to a jury trial. Put me on the jury.

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3Stan(9923 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

With each light sentence the subculture gains more acceptance .

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4justine(3 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

This doesn't suprise me, in 2008 Krichbaum sentenced Donnie Reed 6 yrs for fatally shooting Army Private Randy Davis in the forehead with a 45 caliber gun. That was unbeleivable. So, along with the whimpy prosecutors, we also have whimpy judges. And they wonder why crime is so high in Youngstown.
Gardner and Reed should have been sentenced properly in the first place to prevent murders and crimes from recurring.

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5BiggD357(9 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

Unbelievable, this guy gets more time for armed robbery than for killing a man. Boy, our justice system is so fair, isn't it?

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6Cassie(88 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

Well, seems like a mild sentence to me, but love all the second guessing by non-lawyers. Also, how many felony cases has Jay Macejko tried--he is a real master at fault finding after the fact. Remember the animal cruelty case?

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7joe1616(52 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

How many felony cases has Macejko tried? Macejko worked as a county prosecutor before he was city prosecutor. He tried many felony cases, is excellent. He also prosecuted capital cases. He isnt scared to try these cases, and thats what he would do. I know this firsthand. So before you run your mouth about something or someone that you dont have any clue about, think again.
Oh yea and I do remember the animal cruelty cases. The ones where the agents and dog wardens made illegal searches and seizures on the defendant? That one? If i remember correctly the defendant still ended up getting jail time, even though his due process rights were violated via the wrongful search.

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8burford(95 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

Macejko would make a great prosecutor. It is probably time for Gains to not seek reelection and let a younger man take over.

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9Springman(237 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

Sometimes you don't get the entire story. He may have given up several other perps to get a sentence deal.

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10Nom_De_Plume(59 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

It's amazing how all that you hear from the county prosecutors are excuses. Take the damn case into court and try it! If you look at what Gardner was charged with, a conviction for just about any one of the charged offenses would have gotten him more time than he received through this plea.

Anyone who's been around long enough can find flaws with a case. No case is perfect. For someone of Gardner's ilk, this was truly a slap on the wrist and an injustice to the city, its citizens, and the police who worked so hard to build a case against Gardner. He's already kiled once, is a suspect in other shootings, and robbed and shot at these people in a home. This is a guy that you deal with?

As for Macejko, he outclasses Gains and any of his assistants in all respects. That county prosecutor's office is an absolute joke and Gains is the worst of them all. He doesn't even go to work. If a reporter had asked him about this case before he talked with his staff, he wouldn't have a clue. And, by the way, Joe1616 is absolutely correct - the animal cruelty case was botched by the humane officers (ilegal search) and Macejko still got jail time out of it!

I can only pray that Gains hangs it up and we get a real prosecutor in that office.

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11Nunya(1356 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago


That's true but not enough,..

See deal or no deal with someone that dangerously unhinged being given such a light sentence can't be defended no matter how it's spun.

In way of inside tip value he's a nickle and dime bottom dweller variety scavenger that lacks it. If anything all he'll ever be is a handout hunter that nobody of impact apprehension value would be associated with.

Which is to say via the savagely petty manner he operates for $20 dollar bills and firing rounds into a dwelling to broadcast his presence.

He's such a low fruit on the branch of crime channel of what could validate such a reduced bid. That no matter who he flipped on at his level doesn't beat at least 20 years.

Which that 20 is even generous and he'd have had been able to deliver me the actionable proof on nailing the damn pope to get that deal.

See in a manner of jurisprudence he's no pill popping, possession of stolen goods or marijuana peddling variety nuisance.

He's an indefensibly murderous repeat offender that has a history of every damn thing under the sun associated with him.

Thus with his displayed behavior he's so non reformable he's damn sure due no more deals.

Seven years is another mere short timeout before he strikes again. If he didn't want to go back for keeps he'd have never resumed his previous pattern of conduct.

He's shown he's already gotten away with murder and still doesn't give a damn about life, laws, people nor incarceration.

Thus the only thing left to law enforcements disposal is ostracizing him from all aspects of such. In such a maxed out amount of time that he's shown that his non conformity is moot.

Lastly and however those posing as prosecutors neither displayed, exercised or adhered to NONE of that.

Thus beyond speculation they're unquestionably proliferating crime and absolutely worthless in any other regard.

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12blkpride(186 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

I think that we need to start opening up section 8 housing next door to some of these judges

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13madman(50 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

Stop crying mayor .you can t even fix youngstown , so why are u trying to fix this ?go sit down . ps oh ya got a photo op come up better wax your head lol

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14madman(50 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

You can t even fix the city Mayor! so why are you trying to fix this?

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15prettyliteskin00(1 comment)posted 5 years, 7 months ago


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