Judge scolds YSU football players for having gun, firing it


By Joe Gorman

jgorman@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Municipal Judge Elizabeth Kobly scolded two men Monday who pleaded no contest to having a gun and firing it in the air earlier this summer.

The judge said both men – Casimier Mitchell, 19, of Cleveland and Lee Wright, 21, of South Carolina – have paid a heavy price, with Mitchell being suspended from Youngstown State University for at least a year and losing his football scholarship. Wright, who remains on the team, now has a criminal record for a gun offense after having a clean record.

“You had everything going for you, and it all changed in a split second,” Judge Kobly told Mitchell.

Mitchell pleaded no contest and was found guilty of misdemeanor counts of discharging a firearm within city limits and improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle. Wright, who owned the gun, pleaded no contest and was found guilty of misdemeanor improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle.

Neither had a criminal record before they were arrested in May after a university police officer heard gunfire and saw a car drive away from the sound of the gunfire. The officer followed the car and searched it and found a semiautomatic handgun in the trunk. Reports said Mitchell admitted to firing the gun, and the gun belonged to Wright.

The case originally was charged as a felony and bound over to a Mahoning County grand jury, but the grand jury refused to indict on felony charges and instead sent the case back to municipal court after indicting the two on misdemeanor weapon counts.

In court, Judge Kobly said she had a hard time understanding why anyone would think it is a good idea to randomly fire a gun in the air.

“Firing a gun in the air is one of the most-stupid things you can do,” Judge Kobly said. “You want to know why? The bullet comes down somewhere.”

She said both men are lucky no one was hurt.

In a soft voice, with his hands in his pockets, Mitchell said he was sorry. He said he has a job now and plans to take college classes in Cleveland.

“I wasn’t thinking at the time,” Mitchell said. “I made a dumb mistake, your honor.”

“He has lost a lot,” said Mitchell’s lawyer, Frank Cassese, who represented both men. Cassese said there is no guarantee that Mitchell will ever get his scholarship back or be permitted to attend the university again.

When he was sentenced, Judge Kobly asked Mitchell why he had a gun in the car, and Mitchell said he forgot it was in the car. Mitchell said he got the gun in South Carolina and wanted to get a concealed-carry permit in Ohio. Cassese said Mitchell comes from a rough neighborhood and wanted the gun for protection when he was home.

Judge Kobly said she did not understand how someone who is a college student and a member of the football team could feel compelled to carry a gun. She said if he felt he needed a gun at home, he should have left the gun in South Carolina.

“I don’t know why young men think they need to have a gun,” Judge Kobly said. “This isn’t the wild west.”

She also was upset that he had a gun that could fire a lot of bullets in a short period of time.

“You’re a college student. You’re supposed to be better than that,” Judge Kobly said. “You’re not some street thug who walks around with a gun in his car.”

Both men were sentenced to 150 hours of community service that must be completed by Oct. 31. Wright is on probation for a year and Mitchell for 18 months.

The judge ordered the gun to be forfeited to the university police department, which Wright said was fine with him. Both men were warned they would go to jail if they got into trouble while they are on probation.

“I hope I have scared the heck out of you,” Judge Kobly told Mitchell.

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