LISBON - A Salem man who robbed a Circle K at knifepoint was sentenced by Columbiana County Common Pleas Court Judge C. Ashley Pike on Friday to four years in prison after it was determined he was ineligible for placement at the Eastern Ohio Correctional Center.
Travis Weese, 38, Southeast Boulevard, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of robbery in March, nearly a year after he had been accused of using a knife to take less than $20 from the East State Street Circle K in Salem. He had asked for immediate sentencing when he pleaded in March, but sentencing had been placed on hold until it could be determined whether Weese would be eligible for the EOCC.
The facility is known for confining those convicted of a crime, while providing them with counseling. Weese and his defense attorney, James Hartford, had maintained throughout the hearings that Weese was off his medication for schizophrenia when he committed the crime.
"When he's on his meds he's a fine, upstanding fellow," Hartford said, quoting the opinion of someone who has evaluated Weese.
In a statement read by Hartford, Weese claimed he had lost his ability to pay for prescriptions and was unable to pick up his medications. At an earlier hearing it was stated Weese had not picked up his prescriptions since Dec. 11, 2011. He walked into Circle K on March 25, 2012, a store he visited frequently and did not attempt to conceal his identity until he was already inside the store. That is when he went to the back of the store and put a shirt over his face before taking out the knife.
Hartford also quoted a police report filed by Jay Bennett, the clerk at the store, who reportedly told police he was not certain at first Weese was serious. A customer also reportedly had questioned whether the robbery was "for real."
Assistant County Prosecutor Tammie Riley Jones said the clerk may have thought Weese was kidding, until Weese stepped around the counter, placed a hand on Bennett's shoulder and pointed a knife at him. At that point, Jones said it was apparent the matter was serious. Bennett was in the courtroom but declined to say anything further about the matter.
Weese, who had the support of his mother and grandmother in the courtroom, asked for additional help for his mental health issues. He has reportedly received help from Heartland Behavior Center before and completed a group program at the county jail during his incarceration.
However, without eligibility for the EOCC, Pike noted his sentencing options were limited.
"Protecting the public is paramount in this case," Pike said.
He sentenced Weese to four years in prison, giving him credit for 404 days he has already served since the day of the crime. Pike further suggested Weese utilize any programs he qualifies for at the prison and keep his medications nearby.