Man sentenced to 32 years in prison guard assault
By John W. Goodwin Jr.
Cornelius Harris, 29, will spend an additional 32 years in prison for assaulting two prison guards at the Ohio State Penitentiary.
A jury, after a weeklong trial, convicted Harris late Friday of two counts of felonious assault and two counts of having a deadly weapon inside a detention facility. He was sentenced Monday by Judge Maureen Sweeney of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.
Harris, who is serving a 54-year sentence on a litany of other charges, could have been sentenced to an additional 36 years. Judge Sweeney handed down nine-year sentences on each of the felonious assaults and seven-year sentences on each of the possession of a deadly weapon charges.
One of the felonious- assault charges stemmed from an altercation with a guard who was stabbed multiple times including once in the back. The second count stems from the stabbing of a guard during a pat down procedure.
Harris was found not guilty of several attempted- murder charges with jurors opting instead for the lesser- ncluded offenses of felonious assault
Robert Andrews, an assistant county prosecutor, asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence on Harris, saying the court must send a message to Harris that his behavior will not be tolerated.
“The defendant admitted that he did both of these. He admitted he planned both of these. ... It is inexplicable that he would do these things,” said Andrews. “We have to send a message to him and increase his sentence as much as possible.”
Harris, looking gaunt from an ongoing hunger strike to protest his treatment in prison, admitted his wrongdoing, but, just as throughout his trial, said his actions were purely in self-defense.
“In my mind, I felt I was defending myself. I didn’t want to lose teeth or get my head split open dealing with these foul corrections officers,” he said. “I was provoked into these things. I didn’t just wake up one day and decide I was going to attack people. ... Every man has a right to defend himself.”
Harris had asked the judge to impose a more- lenient sentence concurrent with his current sentence so that he might have the opportunity to one day return home.