Woman gets 2-3 years in prison for Austintown arson

Staff photo / Ed Runyan Ashley J. Levin stands with her attorney, Jerry Ingram, on Wednesday as she’s given her prison sentence on aggravated arson and breaking and entering in connection to a 2020 garage fire in Austintown. She was sentenced to two to three years in prison.

YOUNGSTOWN — After hearing about the terrible conditions of Ashley J. Levin’s youth — a child of divorced parents who both had substance abuse issues and her own significant history of substance abuse and mental health issues — her attorney Wednesday asked a judge not to overrate the importance of the 10-year prison sentence he gave Levin’s co-defendant.

Instead, defense attorney Jerry Ingram asked Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Judge Anthony D’Apolito to consider Levin’s multiple years of sobriety and treatment before she was sentenced on aggravated arson and breaking and entering charges in connection to a September 2020 carport fire on Beverly Avenue in Austintown.

“It certainly doesn’t control, but it certainly is on my mind,” D’Apolito said of co-defendant Matthew B. Alexander’s sentence.

D’Apolito in July sentenced Alexander to 10 to 14 years in prison after he was found guilty at trial of two counts of aggravated arson and one count of breaking and entering.

He gave Levin two to three years in prison — the sentence jointly recommended by the defense and prosecution.

Levin of Austintown will self-report to the Mahoning County jail Friday. Prosecutors said they will “stand silent” regarding her getting out of prison early on judicial release at the appropriate time. She is also required to meet the requirements of the state arson registry.

The judge acknowledged a comment from Levin’s fiancee, John Winwood, about Levin being a different person from the one who participated in the Sept. 9, 2020, arson. No one was injured, but a woman and her two children were home at the time. The Austintown Fire Department extinguished the fire quickly.

“Mr. Winwood had a good point in that the person who committed this crime and the person standing before me are different people. I acknowledge that. I’d like to punish that person, not this person, but I can’t. It’s one in the same,” D’Apolito said.

“I acknowledge that you’ve had trauma,” the judge said. “I am not without sympathy for what you and that person went through.” But, “I cannot let that detract or excuse the behaviors you committed. They are important. They could have resulted in the taking of the innocent lives of two young kids.”

He added, “It was over absolutely nothing — $100 in marijuana — that all of this hell and turmoil came from.”

Prosecutors said Levin and Alexander went to the home with a man they met at an Austintown bar, who they gave $100, and who directed them to the house, where he said they could obtain illegal drugs. But the man went to the door of the home, spoke with someone, then disappeared.

A woman and her two children were home, and they had nothing to do with the drug trade. But Levin went to the door and spoke to the woman, who had called 911 and then watched as Levin went into her carport.

The resident could see the attached carport on her surveillance cameras as Levin emptied a gasoline can on the gas grill in the carport. Levin could be seen “touching the control panel” on the grill, county Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Paris said during Alexander’s trial.

Then Alexander appeared on the video walking into the carport and bending over the controls on the gas grill, Paris said.

“The evidence will show, Miss Levin, Ashley, will testify that (Alexander) pushes the ignition button three times. She hears it click three times,” said Paris, adding the gasoline fumes “combust almost immediately. The carport is engulfed, and they run.”

The judge said during Alexander’s sentencing hearing the key evidence in the trial was the security video showing Alexander, formerly of Youngstown, and Levin, both trying to set the fire, which burned the carport.

On Wednesday, the judge told Levin he acknowledges the “emotional and mental health difficulties you have, the physical as well.” Levin also has a young son.

“I never want to take a parent away from a child, especially a mother away from a child. I would do almost anything not to do that, but I can’t here. I can’t see anything else to do — for various reasons,” the D’Apolito said.

He said he has to consider what the victims of the fire, including “that mom … in her own home, minding her own business, and having her life turned upside down, the terror she went through.”

He said Alexander received a 10-year sentence, but he had a “different criminal background.” Levin had very little criminal history, her attorney said. Alexander did not accept responsibility, and his actions were “more culpable,” the judge said.

Have an interesting story? Email erunyan@vindy.com


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