Warren man sentenced to 9 months in prison for abuse of autistic teen
YOUNGSTOWN — John Shaver of Austintown came into the courtroom of Judge Anthony D’Apolito with a goal of seeing Sultahn E. Honzu of Warren go to prison for committing patient abuse against Shaver’s 17-year-old autistic son.
Shaver was allowed to speak to the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court judge Thursday, saying: “70 percent of people who are disabled are abused by care staff, people who are supposed to be protecting them. I think it is time now to start holding individuals accountable for their actions.
“This happens so much, and everyone walks away,” Shaver said. “Now is the time to stop that and defend the people who are disabled.”
The 70 percent reference can be found on various websites, but it seems to stem from a 2012 report called “Abuse of People with Disabilities” from the Spectrum Institute, which states: “More than 70 percent of people with disabilities who took this survey said they had been a victim of abuse and / or bullying.
“Most had been a victim on multiple occasions,” the document states. “While emotional and verbal abuse was most prevalent, a majority of victims said they had also experienced physical abuse.”
“My son did nothing wrong, being autistic,” Shaver said. “He never asked for that. He’s withdrawn. He doesn’t trust anymore. He’s terrified. He thinks any time he gets close to anybody, he will be attacked and hurt.”
Shaver added: “I fight for everybody who is disabled.”
His son is now in a facility in Canton, but the Shavers can view video of him, “so he’s safe there now.”
Honzu, 19, of Southern Boulevard in Warren, pleaded guilty earlier to patient abuse, a fourth-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months in prison.
Prosecutors recommended that Honzu get one year for his actions toward Shaver’s son while Honzu was working for Penny’s Behavioral Healthcare of Hubbard July 13 and July 26, 2022.
Honzu and George D. Gunther, 19, of Jackson Street SW in Warren, were employed to take care of the non-verbal youth in the Shaver home. Gunther and the company also were charged with the offenses, which were captured on video. Those cases are pending.
At the end of the hearing, D’Apolito sentenced Honzu to nine months in prison. Honzu is also on a patient-abuse registry.
Shaver’s son “is a vulnerable human being,” said Jennifer Paris, assistant county prosecutor. “He is, in my opinion, one of the most vulnerable victims I have had based primarily on the fact that he cannot communicate what is happening to him.”
She said it was not possible for the victim to attend the hearing because it would have been “sensory overload for him,” she said.
Rhys Cartwright-Jones, Honzu’s attorney, told the judge his understanding is the punishment for the company involved would be a fine, but added: “Their involvement in this cause cannot be understated. That is the party that really needs to be held accountable.
Cartwright-Jones said Honzu is now 19 and “went into this with no training, no idea what to expect” and was “utterly unprepared.”
He said the victim “was prone to act out to the point where he could put holes in walls,” but he understands that “this is a very sensitive individual, and I’m not numb to that.”
A call Friday to attorney Brian Turek, who represents Penny’s Behavioral Healthcare in the criminal case, was not returned.
Also, a call Friday to a contact person for Penny’s Behavioral Healthcare, John Mahinis of Hermitage, Pa., was not returned.
Honzu’s mother told the judge Honzu had an “associate who was working at this particular house and they (asked), ‘would you like to come and work too?’ He was like, ‘OK, $15 an hour, OK.'”
She said her son came home at times with bite marks, and she told him not to go back. “My son is not aggressive. He’s big, but he’s like a big teddy bear. He’s never been in any fight. He’s never been in any altercations in school. He’s never had detention.” He was 18 at a the time of the incident.
She said he was “in a situation where they don’t even really know how to react to it.” She said he “definitely doesn’t deserve to go to jail or prison because he’s not out here in the streets doing nothing. He’s not that type of kid.”
She said she works in that field, but it took “years” for her to be trained.
D’Apolito called Shaver back up to ask him if anything that was said about Honzu changed his opinion of the situation.
But Shaver said it did not, saying he believes Honzu should be sentenced to 12 months in prison. “You scarred my son’s life. You scarred us, my family for life,” he told the defendant.