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Nearly 1,000 felony cases filed in Portage in 2016

by DAVE O'BRIEN | RECORD-COURIER REPORTER Published: February 8, 2017 1:00 AM
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Portage County prosecutors filed 10 percent more felony cases in Common Pleas Court in 2016 as they did in 2015. Felony prosecutions crept closer to the 1,000 mark.

Total felony prosecutions for 2016 were 989, according to Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci's 2016 annual report. Each of those cases represented a single individual charged with at least one felony. In 2015, that number was 904.

Drug-related felonies, including manufacturing, trafficking and possession of drugs and related property crimes, continue to strain the courts. A court docket for drug crimes was established late last year in Judge Becky Doherty's courtroom, fulfilling a campaign promise she made in 2014.

Drug-related prosecutions rose 37 percent in 2016, Vigluicci said.

It is at least the fifth year in a row they have increased.

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Portage County's 17 law enforcement agencies sent a total of 1,503 felony reports to the prosecutor's office in 2016, an increase of nearly 200 over 2015 numbers. These included 10 homicides, Vigluicci said.

Among the killings prosecuted in 2016:

Damantae D. Graham, 20, of Akron is on death row after being found guilty of the Super Bowl Sunday 2016 shooting death of 18-year-old Kent State University student Nicholas W. Massa in an East Main Street apartment in Kent during an armed robbery.

Two of Graham's co-defendants -- Marquis Grier and Ty Kremling -- pleaded guilty to murder charges, testified against their co-defendant and are serving life sentences, with the possibility of parole after 15 years. A fourth teen -- Anton Planicka of Stow -- pleaded guilty to attempted murder and was sentenced to 11 years in prison for acting as the getaway driver.

Jabari D. McKee, 28, of Akron stands accused of aggravated murder, arson and robbery charges in the shooting death of Bryan P. Burns, a 41-year-old Rootstown man found dead by firefighters in his burning Smith Avenue home on April 20, 2016. A trial in that case is set to begin in May.

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David D. "D-Block" Calhoun Jr., 25, of Akron has been charged with three counts of aggravated murder in the deaths of Le'Shaun Sanders, Sara Marsh and Marsh's unborn baby in a Nov. 30, 2016, shooting in Ravenna Township. Calhoun was captured Jan. 7 by the U.S. Marshal's Service, hiding in a closet in a vacant residence in Steubenville.

Under Ohio law, both Calhoun and McKee could face the death penalty if convicted of aggravated murder charges. In addition to Graham, two other convicted Portage County killers currently sit on Ohio's Death Row --- triple-murderer James E. Trimble and Tyrone L. Noling.

Several other defendants were charged in connection with fatal heroin or fentanyl overdoses, as part of an effort by local prosecutors to hold accountable the dealers who sell adulterated narcotics.

Prosecutors also filed misdemeanor drunken driving charges against 1,459 defendants in 2016, a slight decrease from 2015, according to Vigluicci's report. That's an increase of 200 cases in the five years since 2011, when 1,237 misdemeanor drunken driving cases were filed, according to past reports.

Misdemeanor domestic violence prosecutions also declined slightly to 335 in 2016, according to Vigluicci's report. There were 362 such cases in 2015.

Civil division prosecutors opened 404 new case files in 2016, compared to 267 in 2015. Appellate Division prosecutors argued 42 cases before the 11th District Court of Appeals in 2016, and five cases before the Ohio Supreme Court in 2016, according to Vigluicci's report.

Email: dobrien@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4189


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