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Reluctant guilty pleas given by man who assaulted police

Morning Journal/Deanne Johnson Uriah James is placed into a sheriff’s office cruiser in front of the Columbiana County courthouse by Sgt. Brandon Hoppel after James pleaded guilty to a list of nine charges including three involving the assault of three police officers in 2019. He admits his crimes, sort of

LISBON — An Akron man reluctantly pleaded guilty Tuesday to nine of the charges he was facing, including three for assaulting law enforcement after refusing to stop the stolen vehicle he was driving in February of 2019.

Uriah Timothy James, 35, appeared before Judge Megan Bickerton in Common Pleas Court Tuesday, expressing his dissatisfaction after spending two years in custody for things he somewhat believes he did not do.

Throughout the hearing, James would occasionally interrupt to request he wants Bickerton to watch video camera footage of his arrest, claiming the police crashed into him and the charged assaults never happened. Instead he claimed they assaulted him and James said once he gets out of prison he plans to sue the law enforcement agencies responsible for his arrest.

“They held my face in the mud,” James said. “They punched me, kicked me … I’m a person. I’m a human being.”

Bickerton noted she has listened to him and never treated him as less than a human being, but insisted he stop interrupting and listen to her as she went through the plea paperwork during a hearing that lasted for about an hour. She also agreed to watch the videos after he pleaded guilty and take what she sees into consideration as she makes a decision as to sentencing. That hearing is scheduled next week.

Assistant County Prosecutor Tammie Riley Jones said she will ask for a three-year prison sentence for James. He told his defense attorney, Thomas Zena, he wanted him to request two years and two months, which would give James credit for time served. Authorities in Akron reportedly have a holding notification, so once he is to be released here or from prison they can pick him up for a probation violation there.

Despite arguing that no one wants to listen to his side of the story, James pleaded guilty to three counts of fourth-degree assault, including one that had been amended from a first-degree felony to the fourth-degree felony. Those charges were for causing or attempting to cause harm to Sgt. Benjamin Dennison and Trooper Drew Thomas, both of the highway patrol, and to Salem Patrolman John Brooks.

Additionally, James pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property, a fourth-degree felony, for having a stolen 2016 Kia Optima belonging to Philomena R. Fears that had been taken from a parking lot in Akron. He also pleaded guilty to failure to comply with an order or signal of a police officer, a third-degree felony; vandalism, a fifth-degree felony; harassment with a bodily substance, a third-degree felony; and two misdemeanor charges of OVI and driving under suspension.

According to court documents, on Feb. 23, 2019 the highway patrol had assisted Salem police in attempting to stop James, who was fleeing into Mahoning County with his hazard lights flashing and no headlights on. James reportedly drove left of center several times, flew through stop signs and turned down several roads before going down a dead end area of Duck Creek Road. Law enforcement attempted to pin him in and he drove through a farm field and back onto the road. The pursuit included state Routes 14 and 165, Middletown Road, Duck Creek Road and Pine Lake Road, where a Goshen Township police cruiser utilized stop sticks to flatten all four of his tires.

Still James continued on back onto the state Route 14 bypass where troopers attempted to box him in. At some point he intentionally rammed Sgt. Dennison’s patrol car and Dennison pushed him off into a ditch on Goshen Road just north of U.S. Route 62 in Salem about 21 minutes after the pursuit began.

The report states James began punching and striking troopers and was tasered by them, yet he continued to fight. They forcibly removed him from the vehicle, placed him on the ground while he continued to kick and punch. At some point, he reportedly bit Thomas and refused to let go until he was struck in the face.

After arriving at the hospital, James reportedly attempted to spit on a nurse and kick at medical staff.

During his hearing on Tuesday, James claimed he was over charged in the matter. He said he did not want anything on his record that “red flagged” him down the road as someone who beats up police.

“I’m going to have assault of a police officer on my record,” James said. “The police like me.”

Sentencing was set for April 14 and at the time of sentencing the prosecutor’s office will ask to have two additional charges dismissed — resisting arrest and aggravated menacing.

djohnson@mojonews.com

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