YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Judge Anthony D’Apolito Wednesday told a man he was sentencing on gun charges in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court that he does not like to send young people to prison if he can avoid it because he hopes a first-time felony can be a wakeup call.

However, he said he had to make an exception for Tavares Hodge, 22, because Hodges has already been to prison once yet he got in trouble again after he got out.

Hodges was sentenced to nine months in prison after pleading guilty Dec. 6 to charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm and improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle.

The charges stem from a July 12 arrest at about 2:35 p.m. in the 3900 block of Erie Street. Officers went there to back up members of the Ohio State Highway Patrol who were working saturation patrols with city police and other law enforcement agencies.

Reports said police saw a gun at Hodge’s feet when they walked up to a car he was in and later found a loaded 9mm handgun inside, reports said.

Two felony drug charges were dropped in exchange for Hodge’s plea.

In April 2021, Hodge’s pleaded guilty to a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced to a year in prison.

Hodge’s attorney, Ryan Ingram, asked for a sentence of jail time instead of prison, saying his client has a strong support system that can help him get back on the right track.

He also said his client has issues with anxiety and anger as well as substance abuse and wants to address those issues through counseling and treatment. His client had a gun because he has been shot at before, Ingram said, but he also noted that his client’s decision making needs to be improved for him to stay out of trouble.

“He made a series of poor decisions that led him here,” Ingram said.

Hodge apologized and said he was ready to pay the price for his actions.

“I’m willing to take 100 percent responsibility for it,” Hodges said.

Judge D’Apolito said if he can, he usually does not sentence someone so young to prison on a gun offense if it is their first offense because that can be a mark on their records in later years that would make it hard to find employment or schooling.

However, in this case Judge D’Apolito said, at 22, this is already Hodge’s second firearms conviction and it seemed like he did not “learn a lesson” from spending a year in prison before.

“Two weapons offenses so young troubles me,” Judge D’Apolito said.

Judge D’Apolito said he understands that Hodge is probably traumatized from being involved in a previous shooting, but the law is quite clear that he can not have or be around guns.

The judge noted that both of Hodge’s parents were present in court, which is a rarity in a lot of cases. He urged Hodge to lean on them when he gets out of prison.

“Use them when you get out to help you,” Judge D’Apolito said. “But you can’t ever have a gun again. You just can’t.”

Hodges could have received a maximum sentence of four years in prison, three for the being a felon in possession of a firearm charge and one year for the improper handling.