Suspect to face lesser charge in killing near YSU
By John W. Goodwin Jr.
A Youngstown man had a more serious charge against him dismissed in the fatal shooting of a Youngstown State University student 11 days ago.
A Mahoning County grand jury met Wednesday and indicted Columbus Jones, 22, of Cambridge Avenue, on a murder charge in the shootings at a house near the YSU campus. The murder charge carries a potential of 15 years to life in prison.
The grand jury also handed up an indictment against Brandon Carter, 22, of East Ravenwood Avenue, on a felony charge of obstruction of justice in the shootings. He could face a potential one to five years in prison.
Jones initially had been charged with aggravated murder and 11 counts of aggravated assault after the Feb. 6 shootings that left 25-year-old Jamail Johnson dead and 11 people wounded. Johnson lived in the Indiana Avenue home frequented by members of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, of which Johnson was a member.
The grand jury chose not to indict Jones on the aggravated-murder charge. Grand jurors instead handed up indictments against Jones on a murder charge and the alternative count of causing the death of another in the commission of a felonious assault.
Jones also was indicted on 11 counts of felonious assault and firing a gun into a habitation, all with firearm specifications.
County Prosecutor Paul Gains explained that prosecutors could not present evidence to the grand jury that Jones committed the murder during the act of rape, arson, robbery, burglary or escape — elements of aggravated murder — because none of those apply to the case.
He said prosecutors were then left to present evidence that Jones committed murder “with prior calculation and design,” but the grand jury rejected that argument and indicted on the lesser charge of murder.
“The grand jury was limited to reviewing the aggravated murder under the prior calculation section of the statute because that is the only section that applies to this case,” the prosecutor said.
The aggravated-murder charge would carry a potential death sentence or possible life in prison.
Gains said large amounts of publicity in the case against Jones has raised public speculation and high expectations.
He would not get into the particulars of the case but did say that evidence gathered by police differs from widespread accounts of what took place just before the shootings, and police evidence is what prosecutors and the grand jury must work with.
“We are stuck with the facts as they are,” he said.
Gains said it is important the public understand the cases against Jones, Carter and three other men charged in the shootings are solid.
“This case is absolutely not unraveling. I feel confident that no one will escape justice in this case. This is a good, viable case,” he said.
Braylon Rogers, 19, of East Lucius Avenue, also initially was charged with aggravated murder and 11 counts of felonious assault. The aggravated-murder and felonious-assault charges against him were dismissed in light of his guilty plea to a felony charge of illegal possession of a firearm Monday. He will be sentenced for that crime at a later date.
Rogers posted $500 bond and was released from the county jail Wednesday. He has promised prosecutors to testify against the others.
Demetrius Wright, 20, of West Avondale Avenue, and Jamelle Jackson, 18, of West Boston Avenue, also charged in the shootings, are scheduled for preliminary hearings Friday. Those hearings could also be negated by a direct presentment to the grand jury.
Wright is charged with tampering with evidence. Jackson is charged with carrying a concealed weapon.