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Man, 19, gets 16 years in federal prison

Sentenced for series of armed robberies

YOUNGSTOWN — Melvin L. Jackson, 19, of East LaClede Avenue, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for committing three armed robberies.

Jackson pleaded guilty earlier to the robberies and two weapons offenses connected to the robberies. He was sentenced on Thursday.

U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman for the Northern District of Ohio announced in July that Jackson’s indictments related to armed robberies Dec. 17 to Dec. 21, 2019, at the Boardman Speedway, Youngstown Subway and Struthers Kwik Fill.

Jackson was arrested Jan. 20, 2020, after Youngstown police assigned detectives to a “proactive aggravated robbery” assignment to try to catch those responsible for a spree in the Youngstown area involving about seven armed robberies.

The FBI began to investigate Jan. 2 after a Dec. 21 robbery at the Kwik Fill gas station, 630 Youngstown Poland Road in Struthers, that netted two masked men $3,500 in cash, according to court documents.

It led police to make a Jan. 20 traffic stop that resulted in Jackson admitting to robbing a Family Dollar on Oak Street, Speedway on Meridian Road, Kwik Fill in Struthers, Speedway on Midlothian Boulevard, Dollar General on Belmont Avenue, Subway on Midlothian Boulevard and Dollar General on McGuffey Road, according to a court document.

U.S. District Court Judge Benita Y. Pearson on Thursday ordered Jackson to also make restitution of $7,871.

Jackson’s attorney, David Betras, filed a memorandum with Judge Pearson before the hearing asking for Jackson to get a sentence on the lower end of the sentencing range.

The filing states that Jackson’s robberies were Dec. 17, Dec. 19 and Dec. 21 and that Jackson pleaded guilty Aug. 6.

Betras stated Jackson was born in and lived in the Youngstown area his entire life, one of two children born to his parents, who were not married.

“Mr. Jackson was raised by his mother because his father was not a factor in his life,” Betras stated. “The lack of relationship with his father bothered Mr. Jackson his entire life.”

Jackson, his mother and brother lived in a low-income housing community that was “riddled with drug use, poverty and violence,” Betras wrote. While a minor, Jackson was diagnosed with bipolar depression and schizophrenia.

He attended Mahoning County High School in Youngstown but dropped out after completing the 11th grade. He did not receive a diploma or GED.

He was incarcerated at age 16 and told a psychiatrist that he experienced anxiety, depression, nightmares about dead people, heard voices and experienced insomnia. He was never employed. He has two sons, ages 2 and 1, Betras stated.

Betras expressed the opinion that race was a factor in the decision to “prosecute this case federally. For that reason, it is (Betras’) belief that a lower end sentence” would satisfy the purposes of sentencing, the attorney stated.

When asked about statement Betras made about race being an issue in the Jackson case, Daniel Ball, spokesman for Herdman, replied in an email: “We adhere to the law and the facts. Federal law enforcement routinely coordinates with and assists local partners to reach a common end: the safety of all the residents in the Northern District of Ohio.”

He continued, “A person’s actions alone decide whether they are brought before a federal court to face criminal charges. Where — as is the case here — the facts proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant and his co-defendant committed these violent crimes and terrorized others, they are held accountable for their conduct.”

Co-defendant Edgar Ramirez, 23, of Detroit Avenue, remains in the Mahoning County jail after also being charged federally on similar charges in the case.

erunyan@tribtoday.com

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