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City man given ‘break’

Gets two-year probation for gun and drug convictions

YOUNGSTOWN — Wardell D. Prather, 41, of Wilkinson Avenue, was sentenced to two years probation Wednesday after pleading guilty Nov. 5 to improperly handling firearms in a motor vehicle and aggravated drug possession.

Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Judge R. Scott Krichbaum told Prather that if he violates the terms of his probation, he will get 2 1/2 years in prison. Prather also must attend a day-reporting program for substance abuse at Community Corrections Association.

Austintown police said an officer spotted Prather in his vehicle in a parking lot of an Austintown motel at 2 a.m. July 31 near the state Route 46 and I-80 interchange.

An officer smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle and observed a baggie with a powdered substance in it that contained drugs. The officer also found a handgun in the car.

Michael Rich, assistant Mahoning County prosecutor, said prosecutors came to an agreement with Prather to recommend probation instead of prison for the two lower-level felonies.

Prather’s attorney, David Betras, told Krichbaum that Prather has had a long-term problem with substance abuse but has sought treatment and has a home improvement business. He graduated from the New Castle School of Trades earlier this year, Betras said.

“I think he has done things necessary to show you that he should be given a chance by you,” Betras said.

The judge noted that he takes remarks about starting new businesses and such at sentencing hearings “with a grain of salt.”

The judge asked Prather why he had a gun in the car, and Prather said he didn’t know it was there. He said there were two other people in the car at the time.

Krichbaum noted that probation officers and prosecutors recommended probation and told Prather he was getting a “break.”

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