Attorney says ‘kind’ client has ‘potential’
22-year-old gets 6 years in prison for bar shootings
YOUNGSTOWN — Lynn Maro, attorney for Machai A. Cheatham, 22, said Tuesday she believes that because of the personality of her client, he still has a great future ahead of him when he leaves prison for shooting three people at the King’s Court tavern on South Avenue early Dec. 4, 2022.
“But for where he was born and raised, I think Machai Cheatham’s life would have taken an entirely different path,” Maro said. His address is Potomac Avenue on the South Side.
Maro said that in the course of preparing for Cheatham’s case, she received records and documents from the Youngstown Police Department indicating that Cheatham has been caught in the crossfire multiple times.
The documents “showed multiple instances of his house being shot at, multiple incidents with drive-by shootings of vehicles he was in. There is no doubt in my mind, but for the circumstances of where he was raised, he wouldn’t be standing here before you,” she told Judge John Durkin of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.
Cheatham has no previous felony or misdemeanor offenses prior to the incident at the King’s Court, formerly known as the Coconut Grove, she said.
“This is an individual who still has the potential to accomplish great things,” Maro told the judge. “He is a kind person. He has a great personality. He told me he understood and appreciated what we were facing in this case. He is probably one of the most cooperative clients I have ever had in my career.”
Before the hearing started, during the hearing and after the hearing, a smile could be seen on Cheatham’s face.
The judge noticed something else — the “tremendous amount of support for you in the courtroom,” he said. Durkin sentenced Cheatham to 6 to 7 1/2 years in prison — the sentence recommended by the prosecution and defense. He gets credit for 312 days already served in the Mahoning County jail. The judge noted that Cheatham still will be a young man when he leaves prison.
Cheatham pleaded guilty a week ago to two counts of felonious assault and gun specifications in the 2:06 a.m. episode inside the crowded bar. A Youngstown police report states men 19, 30 and 33 years old were hit by bullets. Cheatham fired four of them, prosecutors said. Two victims were listed in critical condition at the hospital later, and one was listed in stable condition.
The report states that an officer was working security at the South Side tavern when he saw a large crowd running from the business and then saw the bar’s owner pointing his gun at Cheatham, who also had a gun. The officer ordered Cheatham to drop his weapon, which Cheatham did.
When other officers arrived, Cheatham was placed in the back of a police cruiser, and an officer went inside the bar and found a 19-year-old victim in the middle of the dance floor with at least one gunshot wound. Ambulance personnel took him to St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital.
Two other men arrived at the hospital in other vehicles to be treated for gunshot wounds from the episode, a Youngstown police report states.
Surveillance video in the bar showed that Cheatham and another man came face to face and exchanged words near the bar. Punches then were thrown and most of the crowd reacted, moving away from the fight.
When bullets were fired, the crowd raced for the door.
Mahoning County Assistant Prosecutor Joe Maxin said an off-duty security guard got between Cheatham and the other man and was holding them apart when Cheatham fired a gun toward his adversary. But the shots hit not only his adversary, but also the security guard and Cheatham’s uncle, Maxin said. There were two counts of felonious assault instead of three because Cheatham’s uncle told prosecutors he didn’t want “anything to do with” the case, Maxin said.
The man Cheatham was fighting spent 17 days in the hospital recuperating from the episode and the security guard spent three days in the hospital. Cheatham’s uncle had lesser injuries, Maxin said.