Thefts earn 10-year term

LISBON – A Salem man caught stealing from the office at two Dollar General stores will go to prison for 10 years.

Columbiana County Common Pleas Court Judge Scott Washam sentenced Robert Bembry, 48, West Pershing Street, to the decade in prison, three terms which added up to the same amount of time recommended by Assistant County Prosecutor John Gamble.

Bembry entered the Dollar General, 514 East State Street, Salem, on April 17, 2012, forcing his way into a secured office door and attempting to open a locked desk. Additionally, on Nov. 29, 2011, he entered the Dollar General on U.S. Route 62, Alliance, and searched through desk drawers in the manager’s office, where he was caught on video surveillance.

Last October, Bembry pleaded guilty to the charges of two counts burglary and one count of attempted safecracking. The charges carried a maximum penalty of up to 17 years.

However, Gamble said a deal had been struck at that time. Bembry agreed to assist detectives in return for Gamble requesting a three-year sentence. In order for Bembry to fulfill his part of the bargain, he was released on bond.

Less than two days later he is accused of committing a similar crime. In that burglary and attempted safecracking case Bembry is accused of going into the Guilford Grille, excusing himself to the bathroom, but going into the office instead. He allegedly opened an unlocked safe, removed about $600 and stuffed it into his waistband.

The charges for that case are still pending with a scheduled hearing next month in front of Judge C. Ashley Pike.

Bembry was scheduled Thursday to be sentenced on the Dollar General related offenses. Gamble pointed out Bembry has an extensive criminal record going back to 1982, long before he moved to Ohio and Salem.

“He has shown no proclivity toward changing any of his behavior,” Gamble said, telling Washam about the previous deal and Bembry’s response of allegedly recommitting a crime. Gamble was no longer willing to ask the judge for a three-year prison sentence.

“That was based upon the offer of cooperation,” Gamble said. “He managed to do nothing. He managed to commit another felony offense at another retail establishment on nearly the same day.”

Bembry made a lengthy statement claiming he is not a hardened criminal, but has had a drug problem throughout his life. He said he has been on prescriptions, which had helped him before, but his health insurance was mistakenly canceled. Then his new insurance reportedly did not cover doctors in the Salem area.

“I’m ashamed of myself for what I have done,” Bembry said, offering to help others not make the same mistakes he has made. “I’m going to do my absolute best … I am a good person. I need help more than I need punishment.”

Bembry said when he was on his medication he had a good employment record, starting his own landscaping business, working for an alarm company and a construction company.

“When I get on drugs I go straight down hill,” Bembry said. “I would steal to buy drugs. If I had never used drugs I don’t think I ever would have been arrested.”

Washam said he believed Bembry’s remorse is real, but that the purpose of the court is not just to punish offender, but to protect the public.

He noted Bembry’s lengthy past criminal record was part of his decision to sentence him to five years on each of the burglary counts to run consecutive to each other.

A 12-month sentence on the attempted safecracking charge will be served concurrently with the others. He is credited with 142 days served.

Washam also denied a request by Bembry’s attorney, Kelly Linger, for him to be allowed to remain in the county jail until his hearing on July 29 on the Guilford Grille charges in Pike’s courtroom. Instead he will be transported to prison and then returned by July 24.