By Joe Gorman
Two men who pleaded guilty to their roles in supplying or selling drugs as part of a ring that sold heroin on the East Side received prison sentences Wednesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, while a heroin user narrowly avoided prison for a parole violation.
That defendant, however, Mark Piroch, 27, of North Main Street in Austintown, was given two weeks to find a facility to get treatment for his addiction after he walked out of Community Corrections Association and violated his probation in the case. If he cannot find that treatment, he will go to prison, said Judge Shirley J. Christian.
Sentenced to three years in prison on charges of trafficking in heroin was Kelvin Crenshaw, 28, of East Lucius Avenue. Sentenced to 41/2 years in prison with at least three years mandatory was Michael Cain, 38, of Cherry Hill Avenue, on charges of complicity to trafficking in heroin, trafficking in heroin, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Both sentences were agreed upon by prosecutors and defense attorneys.
The three were among more than 30 people indicted last year for their roles in the ring, with authorities taking a two-pronged approach of indicting about a dozen people on higher-level charges that they sold the drug with the rest getting lower-end felonies for using heroin, the idea being to help the users get treatment first before any type of incarceration and to punish those who were selling heroin.
At the time the indictments were unsealed last summer, Cain was labeled one of the leaders of the ring, and in court prosecutor Margaret Tomaro of the state attorney general’s office, which helped prosecute the case, said Cain was supplying drugs to Terrence Rushton, 33, who will be sentenced to prison May 5 for his role in the ring. Rushton was selling the drugs Cain was supplying.
“He was certainly a main supplier,” Tomaro said.
Defense attorney Lynn Maro said there were issues with the evidence, such as the search of Cain’s home and taps on his phones, and she had filed motions to suppress, but those were dropped in exchange for his plea.
Cain said he took the plea because if he lost the motion, he could have been looking at 12 to 16 or possibly 40 years in prison. He also said he was sorry and embarrassed to be in court and his sentence started before he arrived.
“I’ve already done the hardest part of my sentence,” said Cain, who has served prison time before for drug trafficking. “Saying goodbye to my kids.”
Crenshaw had nothing to say before he was sentenced by Judge Christian. Judge Christian said that sentence was reasonable for Crenshaw, who has never served prison time but who does have a 2004 drug-trafficking conviction.
“I see every day people who are addicted to this stuff you were selling,” Judge Christian said.
Piroch was before Judge Christian for violating the terms of his probation, where he was sentenced to complete the drug treatment program at CCA, but instead failed to complete it. Judge Christian said she was contemplating sending him to prison because there was no place left to put him.
“You have tied my hands,” Judge Christian said.
Piroch pleaded for another chance at treatment. He said his family is trying to find a place that can take him and he has insurance. He said when he was in treatment he left because people there kept using drugs in front of him and offering him drugs. He said he has a 6-year-old child, but the child’s mother is dead, and that prison is full of bad people and all his friends who went to prison came back worse than before.
“I just really need another shot at treatment,” Piroch said.
Judge Christian continued Piroch’s sentencing for two weeks, saying if he can find a place that is secure for treatment, she may reconsider her sentence. She also told him he is responsible for finding the facility, not his family, but his attorney, Miriam Ocasio, can assist him
“I cannot put you back on the street to use again,” Judge Christian said. “I just can’t.”
Also sentenced to attend CCA for violating terms of his plea was Michael Shugart, 29, of Lansdowne Boulevard. Shugart pleaded guilty to possession of heroin charges in October in exchange for intervention in lieu of conviction, where if he completed a course of treatment his charge would be dropped. Instead, he violated the terms of that agreement.