YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Judging by his sigh, it was not the kind of early release from prison Shawn Drogus was expecting on Wednesday.
Drogus, 31, had asked for an early release from a three-year prison sentence he received in January in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court after a jury in the courtroom of Judge Anthony Donofrio convicted him on two counts of assault on a police officer.
Judge Donofrio Wednesday granted Drogus, who has served 393 days behind bars, his early release from prison and placed him on five years of probation. However, as part of his probation, he must serve six months in the Mahoning County Jail.
As Judge Donofrio explained how the early release will be handled, Drogus heaved a deep sigh. A family member in the gallery appeared shocked, his mouth wide open.
A jury convicted Drogus Nov. 18 of two fourth-degree felony counts of assault on a police officer as well as misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest, obstructing official business and disorderly conduct. At his Jan. 11 sentencing, prosecutors asked for a two-year sentence, but Judge Donofrio gave him a three-year sentence instead.
Drogus, of New Castle, Pa., was charged after a May 31, 2021 melee with township police officers at the Days Inn on South Avenue. Police said Drogus was interfering when they were called to the hotel for a report of a problem in the parking lot and found a woman who appeared to be ill.
Drogus, however, refused to leave and refused multiple requests and commands to leave. He resisted efforts to be placed in handcuffs and it took four officers to get him under control. He was so combative that police asked for help from every other cruiser in the area and any police department that could spare an officer.
Two officers were hurt and missed several weeks of work and had to undergo several weeks of physical therapy before they could return. Several ambulance workers and firefighters were also involved in the fracas.
Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Trapp said the state opposed Drogus’ request for early release. He said Drogus never apologized until he was convicted and he showed no remorse for his actions that night.
Because two officers were hurt, that affected police department operations because those officers had to be replaced and Drogus also endangered others because police from other areas had to help Boardman instead of being in their own communities, Trapp said.
Releasing Drogus would send a “horrible message,” Trapp said, “that not only do we not protect our communities, we do not protect the people who protect us.”
Sgt. Glen Patton, one of the two officers who were hurt, also asked that Drogus be kept in prison. Patton said he understands injuries are part of the job as a police officer but what struck him was the fact that Drogus showed no remorse, he said.
All Drogus had to do was leave police alone and he would have been free to go that night, Patton said.
“He interjected himself into a situation that didn’t concern him,” Patton said. “We tried to give him every opportunity to go home that night.”
Chief Todd Werth also asked that Drogus remain in prison. He said losing two officers impacted the township because he had to struggle with schedules for weeks to fill their spots.
“It really affected the entire community,” Werth said.
Defense attorney Joe Ohlin said his client’s record since he has been in prison shows he is a good candidate for early release, which Drogus was eligible for after he served six months in prison. Ohlin said his client works a variety of jobs in prison and has attended over 30 Alcohol Anonymous meetings since he has been in prison.
Drogus apologized directly to the officers and said he has been sober for over a year and it has changed his perspective on things. He wants to continue his alcohol counseling, he said.
“It’s helped me see a lot clearer,” he said of being alcohol-free.
Judge Donofrio said what caught his eye is the fact that Drogus has a spotless record in prison and he has been entrusted to a lot of important things. However, he said the damage Drogus did to the community was something that had to be taken into account as well.
The judge also ordered that after Drogus serves his jail time, he must complete alcohol counseling and he warned him that if gets into trouble while on probation he will return to prison and serve the remainder of his sentence.
Judge Donofrio said he wanted a resolution that will help Drogus return to society while also ensuring that he is punished for what he did to the officers and the department.