Man first declines, then takes plea
By Joe Gorman
It was take it or leave it Friday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court for Evon Cruz.
After 20 minutes of discussion before Judge John M. Durkin, Cruz decided to accept a plea bargain from prosecutors where they are recommending 15 years in prison on charges of aggravated robbery, felonious assault, failure to comply and felonious assault on a police officer.
Had Cruz not accepted the plea deal, he would have gone to trial, and if convicted, he faced a maximum sentence of 42 years in prison.
The charges stem from three separate incidents in March 2015, all in Youngstown, where Cruz robbed a man, shot a person and then led police on a chase on the South Side and fired a gun at police. No officers were hurt, but a cruiser was damaged by two bullets.
Cruz was originally charged as a juvenile but he was later indicted as an adult.
Cruz, 19, was set to take the plea deal when he said he did not understand the sentencing recommendation and was not happy with his attorney, Mark Lavelle, who will argue for 10 years when Cruz is sentenced at a later date after a pre-sentence investigation.
Judge Durkin told Cruz he had every right to go to trial. If he was not happy with Lavelle, another attorney would be appointed for him. The judge told Cruz of the potential maximum sentence if he is convicted after a trial. He also warned him the offer the prosecution was offering would probably go away, which Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Trapp confirmed.
“If he doesn’t accept this offer, I have no choice but to withdraw the offer,” Trapp said.
Cruz said he was confused about when he could apply for judicial release. He thought he would have to wait a lot longer to apply for judicial release after a mandatory seven years he must serve on the firearm specifications.
Lavelle and Judge Durkin both explained to Cruz that after he serves the seven years, he can apply for judicial release after six months of serving the remainder of his time.
Cruz then said he understood, and he agreed to take the plea deal. Judge Durkin said because Cruz agreed to plead guilty and accept responsibility, no matter what sentence he gives, it will not be more than what the prosecution is recommending.