YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Prosecutors Tuesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court asked a judge to hold a man accused of shooting at a city police officer and breaking into the home of an elderly woman be held without bond.
Assistant Prosecutor Mike Yacovone filed the motion before Judge Maureen Sweeney, saying that Tawhon Easterly, 43, of Manhattan Avenue, should be held without bond because of his past criminal record as well as the facts of the case in which he is charged.
Easterly has been free on $66,000 bond following his March 22 arraignment in Youngstown Municipal Court on charges of felonious assault, being a felon in possession of a firearm, tampering with evidence, trespass into a habitation, obstructing official business and a misdemeanor charge of discharging a firearm into a habitation.
Reports said Easterly fired several shots at an officer after police were called about 4:25 p.m. March 21 to the 1370 Belmont Ave. Dollar General store.
An incident report was almost entirely blacked out but when an officer arrived, it said Easterly was there with a gun and he ran away from the officer, firing several shots while he did so.
The officer was not injured.
Easterly then forced his way inside a home in the 600 block of Oxford Avenue where an 83-year-old woman lives and he stayed there for at least 20 minutes before he surrendered, reports said.
The case has been bound over to a Mahoning County grand jury, but Easterly has yet to be indicted.
Yacovone asked Judge Sweeney for a hearing on his motion because she is the judge that is in charge of the grand jury this term and the case falls under her jurisdiction until an indictment is issued.
The request comes as debate across the state has broken out over bail following a 4-3 ruling in January in the Ohio Supreme Court that said bond is a way to ensure that someone appears for court and excessive bonds are unconstitutional.
The panel pointed to a clause in the state’s criminal code that said judges should use the least restrictive conditions to make sure a defendant appears at future hearings and that public safety could not be used to set bail.
“Public safety, although of the utmost importance, is not a factor relevant to the calculation of the bail amount,” the court wrote in its decision. “A court may not impose excessive bail for the purpose of keeping an accused in jail.”
A group of statewide Republicans last month said they want to introduce an amendment to the state constitution that would allow judges to consider public safety when setting bail.
A judge cited the supreme court’s decision Feb. 25 in reducing the $800,000 bond of Marquez Thomas, 24, of North Glenellen Avenue, to $150,000 after his lawyer asked for a reduction, saying he was being punished because he could not afford to post the higher bond.
Thomas is accused of killing a man Dec. 27 at an apartment complex on the West Side and wounding three others. Although his bond was reduced, he has not been able to post it and is still in jail.
In his motion, Yacovone cites Easterly’s past criminal record, which includes a seven year prison term after he pleaded guilty to reduced charges of involuntary manslaughter and three counts of felonious assault for an Oct. 24, 1998 shooting that left an 18-year-old dead and three others wounded.
Yacovone also said Easterly was convicted of assaulting a corrections officer at the county jail in 2004 and sentenced to 18 months in prison.
That assault was part of a civil rights case after several corrections officers were accused of beating him in 2002 in retaliation for the beating of the corrections officer. Six corrections officers who were involved were indicted by a federal grand jury and sentenced to prison, as was a supervisor who ordered the beating.
Yacovone also pointed out a five year federal prison sentence Easterly served in 2009 for being a felon in possession of a firearm and a sentence of probation after Easterly pleaded guilty in 2017 to possession of heroin.
Yacovone said in his motion that under Ohio law, a defendant can be held without bond for a first or second degree felony. The felonious assault charge Easterly is facing is a second degree felony.
Yacovone said judges can also use three criteria to determine if someone should not have bond; if there is enough evidence to prove that the person is guilty of the charge they are facing; a defendant poses a risk of harm to the community or person; and the failure of any bond conditions that will reasonably assure the safety of the community or the defendant.
“In short, the state contends that given the facts of the case and defendant’s lengthy and violent criminal history, defendant’s current bond status is objectionable as he is a substantial and continued threat to the community at large,” Yacovone said.
A hearing has yet to be set.