By joe gorman
Judge R. Scott Krichbaum told a man he was sentencing Friday, convicted of beating a man severely in April, that eight years was not a fair exchange.
The judge told 35-year-old Terrell Vaughn that the law does not allow a punishment to fit the crime of putting a man in a wheelchair and taking his ability to walk, talk and think for maybe the rest of his life.
The judge did, however, sentence him to the maximum eight-year prison term for the charge of felonious assault.
“The law doesn’t allow for your life to be destroyed,” Judge Krichbaum said. “It only allows for it to be delayed or interrupted.”
Jurors in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court took a little less than two hours Thursday to find Vaughn guilty of the April 21 beating of 41-year-old Emil Smith.
Robin Wheaton, one of just three witnesses in the trial and Smith’s girlfriend, testified that Smith had been drinking most of that day and the couple were in Smith’s car to go to dinner when Smith stopped in the middle of the street to fix his car stereo.
An SUV with three men was behind the car, and someone blew the horn and Smith made an obscene gesture, Wheaton testified. She said Vaughn got out of the SUV and hit him, then the other two men got out and punched and kicked him even after he fell to the ground.
The other two men have not been caught.
Judge Krichbaum said there was no excuse for what happened to Smith even though he gave an obscene gesture. He said Vaughn and his “thug friends” took Smith’s life away from him.
“A helpless, wounded, defenseless human being laying on the ground, and you guys just stomped him to death, or almost stomped him to death,” Judge Krichbaum said. “I can’t think of a more cowardly act, more disgusting act, more obnoxious act. Really what you’ve done is destroyed this man’s life.” Smith was in court but unable to speak.
Wheaton said she saw Vaughn hit Smith, and she repeated that Friday. Vaughn has maintained that he was not involved in the beating. Wheaton said that is not true.
“He knows as well as I do that he did this,” Wheaton said.
“His [Smith’s] life has changed forever, and so has mine,” Wheaton said. “I’m in fear for the rest of my life because I’ll never forget this event.”
Vaughn said he was sorry for what happened to Smith.
“I feel bad for what happened,” Vaughn said. “I hope Mr. Smith gets well soon and his life gets back to normal.”
Assistant Prosecutor Nick Brevetta also credited Youngstown police Detective Sgt. David Sweeney for his investigation. Vaughn originally was charged with attempted murder, but Brevetta said the charge was amended to felonious assault because prosecutors could not prove Vaughn wanted to kill Smith.