Thursday, November 8, 2012
By John W. Goodwin Jr.
A 40-year-old Youngstown man will spend the next year in prison for an apparent road-rage situation that ended in gunfire.
Shawn Moreland, 40, of West Judson Avenue, appeared Wednesday for sentencing before Judge R. Scott Krichbaum of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. He previously had pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, a crime punishable by up to 18 months in prison.
Moreland originally had been charged with felonious assault, illegal possession of a weapon and using a gun in the commission of his crime. If convicted on those charges, Moreland could have been sentenced to 14 years behind bars.
The shooting occurred earlier this year after the closing of a bar on Hylda Avenue near Market Street.
According to police, there was a traffic jam with patrons leaving the bar. One car was sitting blocked in unable to move, and Moreland was in a car directly behind the car that was blocked in.
An argument reportedly broke out between the people in the first car and a group of men in the car with Moreland. Someone, believed to be Moreland, left the second car and fired three shots into the other car, hitting one person.
Atty. Doug Taylor, representing Moreland, said his client maintains his innocence, but decided that his best option would be to plead to the reduced charges because of his extensive criminal record.
“This was a very defensible case from its inception. I have taken a lot of heat from the family asking why he should take a plea for a crime he didn’t commit,” said Taylor. “He stands on his innocence, but understands there was a substantial risk to going forward because of his record.”
Moreland has an extensive criminal record dating back to 1991 as an adult and some juvenile issues as well, including illegal possession of a weapon, domestic violence, felonious assault, escape, improper discharge and possession of a firearm in a liquor establishment.
Prosecutors told the court the original charges were reduced because there might be problems identifying Moreland as the actual shooter at trial and issues concerning witness credibility.
Judge Krichbaum told Moreland that he has the option of going to trial on the original charges if he did not commit the crime and would like the matter taken before a jury.
Moreland said he wanted to go forward with the plea agreement.
Taylor told the court his client is now working for a cleaning service and inquiring about college courses.
He asked the court to grant Moreland probation, but Judge Krichbaum said a year in prison is as good as Moreland can expect based on the charges against him.