YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Ask a criminal defendant why they shouldn’t go to prison and chances are they won’t stop talking.
Cornell Arrington is the exception. Asked Wednesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court by Judge Anthony D’Apolito why he should not go to prison, Arrington did not have an answer.
The judge said that worried him.
Arrington, 22, was to be sentenced after pleading guilty in March to charges of improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle and possession of cocaine. He was arrested Oct. 24 after he was pulled over about 2:05 a.m. at West Princeton Avenue and Hillman Street for speeding and police found some drugs and a loaded Glock semiautomatic pistol underneath his seat.
Prosecutors were recommending some term of local incarceration to be determined by the judge. This is his first felony conviction. He previously has been convicted of only three minor misdemeanors.
Free on bond when he entered his guilty pleas, Judge D’Apolito said he told Arrington to think of some ways to not go to prison instead of serving local jail time.
When he showed up for sentencing, Arrington took a drug test and tested positive for oxycontin and marijuana. He told the judge he has a prescription for the oxycontin because of a bullet wound he suffered last year.
The judge said that did not get him off to a good start, even after Arrington explained that the reason he still had the pills was because he didn’t take them all right away. Instead, Arrington said he saved them for when his wound started hurting.
He also failed to appear three times to be interviewed for his presentence investigation, Judge D’Apolito said.
“I can’t think of one good reason why you shouldn’t go to prison,” Judge D’Apolito told him.
“I don’t have a reason right now, either,” Arrington replied.
When the judge asked him why he can’t think of a reason, Arrington answered: “I’m having a hard time dealing with life.”
One of the things Arrington said he is dealing with right now is the death of his cousin, Damon Irby Jr., who was shot and killed on March 4 on Market Street. A woman with Irby was wounded in the same shooting. Police have yet to make an arrest in the case.
When asked why he had a gun when he was stopped, Arrington said he needs it to protect himself. In a quiet voice that was sometimes hard to hear even when he wasn’t wearing his mask, Arrington said he has made enemies, or “People being envious of me being in the streets.”
“You’ve given people reasons to want to hurt you,” Judge D’Apolito said. It was more a statement than a question.
“Yes, sir,” Arrington answered.
“So now you have to protect yourself from these folks.”
“Yes, sir,” Arrington said.
The judge said he was very surprised that Arrington could not think of a reason why he should not go to prison.
“I’ve never had anyone say I shouldn’t give them a chance or a break,” Judge D’Apolito said.
The judge said that worried him.
“It sounds like you have no hope. That worries me. That Glock you had under your seat. You’re not afraid to use it and that’s what scares me.”
The judge said sending Arrington to prison for even a year accomplishes nothing because the problems with not having a job, no degree and substance abuse will be there when he returns. He placed Arrington on three years probation with the first 90 days to be served in the Mahoning County Jail.
He must then attend treatment and counseling programs at the Community Corrections Association for six months, get a General Equivalency Diploma and get and keep a job. One slip up, the judge warned, and he will go to prison for nine months, the balance that would be left on his sentence.
The judge said this is a day the young Arrington can look back on 10 years from now and see it as a watershed moment; either take the help offered, or ignore it and wind up in prison or worse, dead.
“This is the rest of your life,” Judge D’Apolito told him.