By Joe Gorman
When Symeon Bankston got out of prison the last time for dealing drugs, he asked friends for help in finding a job.
All they could offer him was the chance to deal more drugs, Bankston, 32, said just before he was sentenced to four years in prison Thursday on two drug-trafficking charges.
“When I asked for help, they offered me crack,” Bankston told Judge Maureen Sweeney in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. “The only thing I could get was to sell drugs, drugs, drugs.”
Bankston had pleaded guilty in two separate cases to charges of possession of heroin and possession of cocaine. The four-year sentence was agreed upon by defense attorney Martin Yavorcik and Assistant Prosecutor Rob Andrews.
Court records show Bankston has drug charges and convictions dating back to 2005, and he has been in prison at least twice, once after being convicted after a 2005 trial for possession of drugs and in 2010 for a probation violation.
Yavorcik said his client has never been charged or convicted of any crime of violence but that he dealt drugs as a way to survive, Yavorcik said Bankston tried to move in with his mother but is not allowed because she lives in a housing project that does not accept convicted felons.
Bankston told Judge Sweeney he got a certificate to be a dental assistant and worked somewhere but got laid off. He tried to go other places to get work, but they either wouldn’t take a convicted felon or he had to have a record of employment elsewhere before he could be accepted.
“I was in a situation where I was pinched for cash,” Bankston said. “I did it, and I got caught up in it. I’m not an animal. I’m not vicious. It’s just the economy.”
Bankston also asked if he could have extra time to report to prison because his mother is scheduled for surgery. Judge Sweeney gave him 30 days from Thursday to report, but she warned Bankston that if he does not show up on time, she will vacate the agreed-upon sentence and sentence him to far more than four years in prison.