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Outbursts disrupt sentencing of woman for Youngstown cop assault

Published: Sat, July 21, 2012 @ 12:09 a.m.

By Peter H. Milliken



A woman convicted by a jury in June in an altercation with city police at a 2011 traffic stop was sentenced to 330 days in jail, followed by three years’ probation and fined $650 in a raucous courtroom drama.

Desiree Johnson, 45, of West Princeton Avenue, drew the sentence Friday from Judge Robert P. Milich of Youngstown Municipal Court.

Johnson was convicted of obstructing official business, resisting arrest and assault on Patrolman Patrick Mulligan and Lt. Kevin Mercer, both of the city police department.

After the judge pronounced sentence, Johnson sobbed and told the judge: “You should be ashamed of yourself.”

As she was being escorted out of the courtroom to begin her jail term, courtroom security personnel restrained spectators who tried to follow her.

The judge then hollered to the spectators: “Everybody sit down, or you’re going to jail ... If you’re not going to be respectful, you’re going to jail.”

Judge Milich had earlier in the hearing postponed the sentencing of Doretha Weston, 35, of Miller Avenue, who was convicted by the same jury of obstructing official business and driving under suspension in the same incident.

Judge Milich postponed her sentencing after he granted her request to discharge her lawyer, William Blanchard, and after Weston, who was then representing herself, said she didn’t understand the court proceedings. The judge reset her sentencing for 9:45 a.m. Aug. 30.

“She does understand, but she’s being obstinate,” said Bassil Ally, an assistant city prosecutor.

After Johnson was sentenced, the judge ordered Weston, who remained in the courtroom as a spectator, to sit in the jury box, and he told her: “One peep out of you, and you’re going to jail.”

Two dozen pickets had appeared Thursday outside city hall to support Johnson, protesting what they said was police harassment of Johnson’s family.

“The officers, Kevin Mercer and Patrick Mulligan, came to my neighborhood around me... I never pursued them. They pursued me,” Johnson told the judge, describing herself as a victim of the officers.

“This incident got out of hand, and I think she understands that,” said Johnson’s lawyer, Michael Gollings, who asked the judge to consider that his client had a “very minimal” prior criminal record.

However, the judge recited a litany of driving under suspension, disorderly conduct, housing code and dog law violation charges that had been filed against her in various jurisdictions, and failures to appear in court, dating back to 1987.

“These ladies have not taken any responsibility for their actions,” Ally told the judge.

“We did everything in this case that we could to keep this at the lowest level possible,” Mercer said, referring to the level of force he and Mulligan used during the incident.

Weston and Johnson “have no respect for authority. They think they can do whatever they want and there will be no consequences,” Mulligan said, calling for maximum level sentencing.

“I shouldn’t get any sentence at all because I haven’t done anything wrong,” Weston said. The officers pulled the women over in the 1700 block of Overland Avenue on March 30, 2011, because Weston failed to signal before turning, police said.

The officers said the women refused to show them their driver’s licenses or exit the car as ordered.

Mercer said he pulled Weston from her car and took her to the ground. He said Johnson dialed 911 to report that he was assaulting Weston and would not get off the phone or exit the car when told to do so.

Reports indicate Mulligan pulled Johnson from the car, and she threw punches, striking both officers, according to Vindicator files.

The women said the officers attacked and beat them, and Johnson said her cellphone was ripped from her hand.

All charges against both women, except obstructing official business, were dropped in April 2011.

However, on March 15, 2012, the officers initiated the resisting arrest and driving under suspension charges against Weston and two counts of assault on a police officer against Johnson.

Jurors deadlocked on the resisting arrest charge against Weston after a three-day trial.

The two women filed a civil lawsuit against the officers and the city in late March in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, saying the new criminal charges were filed in retaliation for an internal affairs complaint and an earlier lawsuit by Johnson.

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