By Joe Gorman
Even the prosecuting attorney acknowledged that a man being sentenced for two drug-trafficking charges Wednesday had some positive things going for him.
Judge Lou D’Apolito of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court agreed with that as well, but he added just before he gave 27-year-old Bert Pritchard of Gluck Street five years’ probation that if he violated his probation, he would have only one thing going for him — a trip to prison.
Pritchard pleaded guilty June 13 to a charge of trafficking in marijuana, a fifth-degree felony, and trafficking in heroin, a third-degree felony. He was arraigned on the charges Jan. 28.
Martin Desmond, an assistant county prosecutor, was asking that Judge D’Apolito sentence Pritchard to two years in prison, mainly because of a presentence investigation that said there was a slight chance Pritchard could be a repeat offender because of two prior misdemeanor convictions.
This was Pritchard’s first felony, and he has no juvenile criminal record. Desmond also said Pritchard was selling drugs in front of his young son. He agreed that Pritchard had some good things going for him, but he asked for the prison sentence to make sure Pritchard learned his lesson.
James Wise, Pritchard’s lawyer, told the judge his client has a high-school diploma and a job and is moving to a better job next week. He also told the judge the experience of being arrested and indicted has convinced his client to stay out of trouble, and Pritchard has the support of his family. His mother and both grandmothers and other family members were in court.
Pritchard apologized to the judge and his family.
“I made a mistake,” Pritchard said. “I thought I had to do something I really didn’t have to do at the time for my family.”
Judge D’Apolito said one thing that impressed him was that Pritchard volunteered before court to take a drug test, and he passed. The judge added Pritchard has education, a job and a valid driver’s license, which are things most defendants in similar cases don’t have. He said his biggest concern is whether Pritchard learned his lesson.
After placing Pritchard on probation, he gave him this warning.
“I give you my word: If I see you back here again, no matter how many family members you bring, you’re gone,” Judge D’Apolito said to Pritchard.