By joe gorman
Derrick Howard-Ross admitted as he was being sentenced for a December shooting in which a man was wounded twice that he fired the shots and is a drug dealer.
Howard-Ross, 28, told Judge R. Scott Krichbaum on Friday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court the reason he happened to be wearing a bulletproof vest Dec. 10 when he shot 25-year-old Justin Johnson at a Rutledge Drive home is that he deals heroin and OxyContin and that two other dealers in his neighborhood were killed by family members who tried to lure them into a home before they were shot.
“I’m not going to lie. I sell heroin. I sell opium pills,” Howard-Ross said just before he was sentenced to 19 years in prison.
Judge Krichbaum, however, said he did not believe Howard-Ross or the story when he testified in his own defense earlier this week in court when he said he fired into the home because he saw a figure with a gun inside who fired two shots that hit his vest.
He also contradicted his testimony when he said he did not know whom he shot at. Prosecutors said Howard-Ross shot Johnson because Johnson was with his estranged girlfriend, and Howard-Ross was angry.
Howard-Ross also said he would not have shot into the house if he knew his estranged girlfriend’s daughter was inside.
Judge Krichbaum said Howard-Ross, who at times yawned and stood with his arms folded across his chest, was a liar.
“I don’t believe there’s one ounce of truth in you,” Judge Krichbaum said. “I think this was an act of outrageous jealously because someone took over your woman, and you stewed about that for awhile before you tried to kill him. I think you went over there to kill him, and you just couldn’t pull it off.”
Howard-Ross received sentences of eight years each for the charges of felonious assault and discharging a firearm into a habitation, both of which are second-degree felonies. Eight years is the maximum for both counts.
An additional three years was tacked on for a firearm specification.
Howard-Ross’s lawyer, James Gentile, tried to argue that the charges should be merged into one for purposes of sentencing but Judge Krichbaum overruled his argument.
Howard-Ross was convicted Wednesday by a jury after a trial that started Tuesday. Jurors deliberated about 50 minutes before convicting him.