Judge wants to talk to shooting victim before plea
By Joe Gorman
When you roll the dice and decide to take a case to trial, it is not just the attorneys who might lose; it is also the victim.
That is why Judge Anthony D’Apolito on Monday postponed a plea hearing in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court for a man who was set to plead guilty to a double shooting in March, because he wants to make sure one of the victims – who was paralyzed – can live with a recommended seven-year sentence.
The alternative, the judge told the victim’s mother, is to have a trial and have the defendant, 20-year-old Tayquan “Bleach” Charlton of East Auburndale Avenue, found not guilty.
Then there would be no justice for the victim at all, the judge said. So the judge said he wanted to wait until today to speak to the victim to make sure he is OK with the sentence. If not, he said, the case may go to trial.
“The only thing worse than that [sentence], is no one going to prison at all,” Judge D’Apolito said.
Charlton was indicted in May on two counts of felonious assault and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm in a March 24 shooting in the late afternoon at Hillman Street and West Ravenwood Avenue on the South Side that injured two teens.
Reports said both teens were shot by someone who was in a car, got out, fired several shots and then ran away on foot.
Charlton was arrested about 10 days later while police were answering a gunfire call on the West Side. He has been in the Mahoning County jail since his arrest.
He was set to plead guilty Monday, the day his trial was scheduled to begin, on two counts of felonious assault with firearm specifications. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors would drop the weapons charge and recommend a sentence of seven years.
Assistant Prosecutor Nick Brevetta said the offer is the best way to ensure that Charlton is punished for what he had done and to protect the public for some time without going to trial and risking the chance of a not-guilty verdict.
“I don’t think either party is happy with the resolution, but I think it’s the best way to protect both parties,” Brevetta said.
Brevetta said he spoke to the victim by phone, and the victim said while he wanted Charlton to get more time, the victim understood Brevetta’s reasoning and told him to make the deal.
Judge D’Apolito asked to speak to the victim’s mother, who was in court. He told her he asked the prosecutor to explain the strengths and weaknesses of his case and why he thought it necessary to offer a seven-year sentence. He asked if she understood his rationale as well, and she said while she wanted more time, she understood and was “OK” with the sentencing recommendation.
The judge offered to take a recess and have the mother call her son to gauge his feelings on the sentence, but Brevetta suggested that since the victim wanted to be present for sentencing in the case that the plea be put on hold until today so the judge could speak with him.
Judge D’Apolito agreed.