YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Stanley Hampton came straight from the midnight shift to court and didn’t know if he would be going back to work tonight or to prison.
The odds weren’t in his favor. The 34-year-old Philadelphia native was appearing in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to be sentenced on a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm before Judge R. Scott Krichbaum, a judge who does not blink or shed a tear at the most poignant of stories before sending someone, especially someone who broke the law once and did it again, to prison.
By his own admission and that of his attorney, Pete Klimis, Hampton’s criminal record is not one to write home about. He did prison time in Pennsylvania for a robbery and moved to Ohio afterward to get away from the streets and has been clean since then.
Hampton has custody of his two children. He works 7:45 p.m. to 8 a.m. at a nearby factory and also has a part-time job as a cook. He was arrested in April by city police investigating a gunfire call on his street, North Richview Avenue. Hampton was in a car and told police there was a gun in the car and that he was a convicted felon and not allowed to have a gun.
Prison time seemed like a forgone conclusion. But it wasn’t. Instead, Hampton was placed on probation, although he was warned if he ever violates that probation, he will go to prison for the entire three year sentence he is eligible for.
“I’m going to give you the break of a lifetime,” Judge Krichbaum told him.
The case was not simple, and there was a complicated backstory, Klimis said. At the home Hampton was living at, the previous tenant was evicted and left behind several items, which the landlord took.
The previous tenant wanted those items back and threatened Hampton and the landlord. He showed up to the house in the middle of the night and threatened Hampton in front of his kids. He threatened Hampton at his job. Kilmis even produced an affidavit from the landlord describing the threats.
Desperate to protect his family, Hampton got a gun. Even though he knew he shouldn’t have.
“My client was in fear of his life,” Klimis said. “Not just for his life. But the life of his family.”
When Hampton spoke, he apologized and admitted what he did was wrong. He said he thought he had no other choice and just wanted to keep his family safe.
“I know I was wrong for having the gun,” Hampton, who dressed for the occasion in a suit and tie, said. “If you give me probation, I will show you my past doesn’t define me.”
Judge Krichbaum said he typically does not give probation in such cases, but he added that Hampton had accepted responsibility immediately when police saw him, has stayed out of trouble and works to provide for his family.
The judge said he still is opposed to people having guns who are barred by a criminal conviction from having them and said people in such circumstances should go to the police.
Still, he said if he wanted to make an error, he would err on the side of “mercy and compassion.”
After the judge left the bench, Hampton took a deep, deep breath before saying, “Thank you, your honor.”
The judge paused for a moment before his chambers.
“You’re welcome,” he replied.