Feds oppose early release for Youngstown man convicted in Valley’s largest heroin seizure

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Federal prosecutors this week said they are opposed to an early release for a city man serving a 15-year prison sentence in what authorities called the largest heroin seizure in the area.

Prosecutors in the U.S. Northern District Court of Ohio say Phillip Lemon, 34, has a lengthy criminal record and had already blown one break when a judge allowed him to self report for another federal court case to attend the birth of his child, but he never showed up to serve his sentence.

Lemon first filed a motion for early release in November, citing the COVID-19 pandemic and other health issues as the reason he should be let out of prison early.

Also in his motion, he says he needs to be released from prison to care for a daughter whose mother died of COVID-19.

Since then, he has been filing supplemental motions under seal. He filed his original motion on his own, but an attorney was appointed by the court shortly after to help him, according to court records.

In March, Lemon’s motion was denied but he filed a new motion asking the court to reconsider. That motion was also denied. He filed a third motion under seal Wednesday and prosecutors responded Thursday.

Lemon was sentenced in February of 2017 to 15 years in prison by U.S. Judge Dan Aaron Polster after pleading guilty to charges of possession with intent to distribute heroin, possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and possession of firearms during a drug trafficking crime.

The charges stem from a December 2015 search warrant served by the Youngstown Police Department vice squad at a home on McHenry Street on the east side. There, officers found three pounds of heroin with an estimated street value of $500,000. At the time, authorities said it was the largest seizure ever of heroin in the area.

The officers also found scales, cash and two .22-caliber handguns while serving the warrant, which was initially served after police received several complaints that someone in the home was selling crack cocaine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Toepfer wrote that releasing Lemon early “would not promote respect for the law or protect the public from future crimes.” Toepfer wrote that in a 17-year time span Lemon has 13 convictions in state court for charges ranging from drug offenses to being part of a criminal gang.

In 2011, he was one of 25 people indicted in federal court for selling heroin on the east side. He was set to be sentenced in 2012 but was allowed to self report for his sentencing in order to be present when his child was born. However, he never showed up for his sentencing and was given an 18-month prison sentence to serve with the 30-month sentence he received in the drug case.

“This kind of behavior demonstrates that Lemon can not be trusted to follow any supervision rules the court would impose if he is released early,” Toepfer wrote.

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