Court cases of intimidation, retaliation soar in Mahoning County

YOUNGSTOWN — In the sports world, the idea that a person can intimidate his opponent through fear is a good thing. Intimidation on a football or baseball field is a characteristic that helps teams win championships.

But in the world the rest of us live in, it’s not OK.

In Mahoning County, the number of felony intimidation cases has risen in the last four years — there were 20 last year — the highest in the last four years. It was indicted eight times so far this year, which means it is on pace to reach about 25 cases this year.

The average number of cases from 2020 through 2022 was 11.5.

An intimidation charge accuses a person of attempting to influence, intimidate or hinder such people as police officers, attorneys or witnesses. The retaliation charge is similar except that it accuses a person of retaliating against such people.

Perhaps the most notable recent case is that of Sammy F. Anderson Jr., 28, who was sentenced Wednesday to 15.5 years to 19.5 years in prison after being found guilty by a jury of two counts of felonious assault, gun offenses, and aggravated menacing for severely beating his girlfriend on two occasions last year.

During his sentencing, Judge Anthony Donofrio expressed his disgust for the brutal assaults Anderson committed and the ways that Anderson and his mother attempted to intimidate the victim to prevent her from following through with criminal charges.

Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Bonish said Anderson called the victim 1,417 times since his September arrest despite a no-contact order in the case, and Anderson’s mother “continues to call (the victim) as well.”

The victim did not initially show up to testify in Anderson’s trial and had to be arrested by the U.S. Marshals Service on a material witness warrant so that she would come to court the next day and testify, which she did.

Judge Donofrio told Anderson’s mother, Lawanda Maddox, when Maddox made a statement to the judge before her son’s sentencing that he found Maddox’s actions “chargeable.” Prosecutors said the idea of charging someone with intimidation in the Anderson case is pending.

Over the years, the charge of intimidation and the similar offense of retaliation have been charged against individuals for other types of offenses — primarily those committed against law enforcement officers, prosecutors or judges while carrying out their public duties.


Bonish, who is head of the county prosecutor’s office’s new Special Victims Unit, said intimidation is frequently charged when it involves a defendant threatening police officers, but it also was used in 2022 for an individual who threatened prosecutors and a judge.

“A lot of these offenders may be intimidating, threatening police. That happens fairly commonly during the course of the arrest — they are screaming out threats to the law enforcement officers,” she said.

Ronald Paris, now, 30, was indicted in 2019 on a rape charge. While in the Mahoning County jail on that charge, he wrote letters and made threats against Bonish and Judge Anthony D’Apolito of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, Bonish said.

Paris, formerly of Roy Street in Youngstown, pleaded guilty to seven charges connected to the 2019 sexual assault of a 14-month-old girl, including first-degree rape. He was sentenced to 18 years to life in prison in July 2022.

Another allegation against Paris was spitting at and threatening correction officers while in jail. Among his convictions were one count of intimidation and one of intimidation with a bodily substance.

In July of 2022, Judge D’Apolito sentenced Paris to three years in prison for the two offenses to be served in addition to the time he got for the rape.


Another notable intimidation case is that of Terry A. Thomas Jr., 33, of Youngstown. He has been housed in the Mahoning County jail since March 7 on a mixture of new and old charges, but intimidation or retaliation runs through both.

In 2022, Thomas was indicted on several charges, including intimidation and retaliation.

Thomas was convicted of the retaliation, and his other offenses were dismissed as part of his plea agreement.

His offenses stem from an Aug. 5, 2022, incident when police were called to his home on Rutledge Drive on the East Side, where he was staying with his girlfriend and her children.

When police arrived, they were told Thomas assaulted the two children. Ambulance personnel checked on them — one had a small bump on her head, but they declined treatment.

Officers described Thomas as “very intoxicated.” They tried to separate Thomas from the children, but he wouldn’t cooperate and pushed an officer in the back, the report states.

During a physical altercation, officers took Thomas to the ground, handcuffed him and placed him in a cruiser.

While taking him to St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital, Thomas’ handcuffs were repositioned to the front of his body, but he was still combative, making threats toward officers and EMS, stating he would shoot them, the report states.

He struck officers and attempted to strike ambulance personnel while being restrained, the report states. An officer struck Thomas in the face to prevent him from assaulting others, and Thomas was brought under control.

Although she filled out a domestic violence form, Thomas’ girlfriend didn’t cooperate with prosecutors, according to Mike Rich, assistant county prosecutor.

Thomas was indicted on intimidation, retaliation, assault, obstructing official business, two counts of domestic violence and one count of disorderly conduct, but all of the charges were dismissed except retaliation in exchange for Thomas’ plea.

On Jan. 18, 2023, Thomas was sentenced to two years of probation supervised by the Ohio Adult Parole Authority on the third-degree felony of retaliation.

He ordered Thomas to possess no drugs or firearms during the two years of his probation and not cause harm or threaten anyone or any property. He was to be assessed for possible placement in a substance abuse or counseling program.


Thomas did violate the terms of his probation March 7 of this year at apparently the same home on Rutledge Drive where the earlier offenses occurred and involved many of the same victims and under similar circumstances, according to a Youngstown Municipal Court document.

Police were called when Thomas’ wife reported Thomas was intoxicated, threatening to kick her out of the house and threatening her.

After police were able to enter the house, where Thomas had barricaded himself in a rear bedroom, the woman told police she and Thomas had been arguing for several days. When he came home that day intoxicated, he threatened her, her children and her mother, all of whom lived in the home.

Thomas was taken to the Mahoning County jail and was charged in Youngstown Municipal Court with two misdemeanors, unlawful restraint and domestic violence.

Thomas pleaded not guilty the next day, and Judge Renee DiSalvo held a bench trial April 1, meaning a trial without a jury.

During the trial, body camera footage from an officer was played. It showed the incident, according to the document. The officer testified that he did not see any injuries on Thomas’ wife, but she said Thomas had threatened to choke her twice and also threatened to punch her in the face.

Thomas testified that he had lived in the home with his wife for five years and they have no children together. He testified that “police had forced entry into his home before,” and that caused him to install surveillance cameras.

He admitted to making threatening remarks but said they were directed toward someone on a speakerphone with his wife. He denied assaulting her.

At the end of the trial, Thomas was found guilty of the two charges, and his sentencing is set for 9 a.m. April 30. Meanwhile, the new charges resulted in a probation violation being filed against Thomas in his retaliation case in common pleas court.

Attorney Walter Ritchie stipulated to probable cause March 13 in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court that Thomas committed a probation violation because of the new charges, and Krichbaum ordered that Thomas be held in the county jail without bond pending his probation violation hearing, which is now scheduled for 10:30 a.m. April 24.


Bonish said the use of body cameras by law enforcement in many communities in Mahoning County makes it easier to file intimidation charges involving police officers.

“Body cams I think are extremely helpful because the jury is able to see exactly what that defendant said to the officer, what threats they hurled out and the context those threats came in,” she said.

“A jury being able to actually see the defendant yelling at an officer ‘I’m going to kill you and your whole family.’ That is very different from just hearing the officer testify about it.”

She has found that some of the people charged with intimidation end up in a diversion program, like veterans court.

“For some of these people — not everybody certainly — they are being arrested. They are screaming these things out. There is some genuine mental illness or post traumatic stress disorder or something that is causing that,” Bonish said. “So the court and prosecutor’s office is able to recognize the situation like that and offer veterans’ court or some other diversionary program if the person just really needs help.”


As for intimidation of victims in criminal cases, “I would say it’s fairly common that we see defendants trying to dissuade the victims and witnesses against them from coming down here,” Bonish said of testifying in court.

She said the prosecutors’ decisions on whether to charge someone with intimidation is influenced by how far a defendant is willing to go.

“Do they make an actual threat or do they just call and try to sweet talk the person or try to apologize to the person,” she said. “That may not get us to the point of a felony intimidation. But some of those offenders who do make threats (such as) ‘I’ll kill you. I’ll kill your mother, I’ll burn down your house, those are the ones we are looking to charge for intimidation.”

Intimidation is a concern in many types of cases, including murder, Bonish said. “I think this is kind of across the board.”

Bonish said it is important that criminal attempts to intimidate are stopped.

“On the law enforcement end, people should not feel free to threaten police officers who are just out there doing their jobs,” she said. “They should not feel free to threaten the judge or the prosecutor. Those people need to be charged because that is just not OK.”

She said people who threaten witnesses or victims need to be charged “because we want those victims and those witnesses to feel like if I am being threatened, I call the police and something can actually happen here.”

She said an intimidation charge can be brought “on top of whatever else that defendant is already facing. It also could result in a bond revocation if the defendant is out on bond. We want victims and witnesses to see that the criminal justice system is doing what it can to protect them when the case is going on.”

Have an interesting story? Email Ed Runyan at erunyan@vindy.com


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