September 2, 2014

Elyria
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Woman to serve 15 days for choking Walmart greeter

Attorney James Kersey comforts his client Toni Duncan on Thursday as she reacts to being sentenced to 15 days in jail. (CT photo by Bruce Bishop.)

Attorney James Kersey comforts his client Toni Duncan on Thursday as she reacts to being sentenced to 15 days in jail. (CT photo by Bruce Bishop.)

ELYRIA — A woman who choked a 71-year-old greeter at the Elyria Walmart Supercenter and then boasted about it to her daughter was sentenced to 15 days in jail Thursday in Elyria Municipal Court.

Judge Lisa Locke-Graves, who imposed the sentence against Toni Duncan, 49, called the attack “absolutely reprehensible.’’ Duncan had pleaded no contest and was found guilty of assault earlier this week.

“I am appalled that someone would choke a person 71 years of age,” Locke-Graves said.

In the March 30 incident, prosecutors said Duncan choked Alger Burchell when he asked to see a receipt for her purchases.

Locke-Graves sentenced Duncan to 120 days in jail but suspended 105 days. She ordered Duncan to be taken from the courtroom to immediately begin serving a 15-day jail sentence. She cited prior delays in the case and continuances in denying attorney James Kersey’s request for more time before Duncan reported to the county jail.

Duncan also was ordered to pay court costs, take an anger management course before the end of the year and not to have any criminal violations for five years. She was further ordered to stay away from Walmart and Burchell for five years.

Ashley Jackson looks at the camera as she sits with Kersey and Duncan at their sentencing. (CT photo by Bruce Bishop.)

Ashley Jackson looks at the camera as she sits with Kersey and Duncan at their sentencing. (CT photo by Bruce Bishop.)

Duncan’s daughter, Ashley Jackson, 23, was sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $250 for disorderly conduct, but Locke-Graves suspended 27 days of the jail time for three days’ community service with the Elyria Streets or parks departments. The judge ordered the community service to be served by Nov. 30.

“I expect you to be capable of doing the work and having the proper attitude,” Locke-Graves told Jackson.

Jackson was also ordered to maintain five years of good behavior, take an anger management class and stay away from Walmart for five years.

Jackson, who left the courtroom and then returned during her mother’s sentencing, burst into tears when Duncan was given jail time.

Duncan broke down a few moments later as she stood before Locke-Graves, who was clearly disturbed by City Prosecutor Cynthia Adams’ description of the episode in which Duncan “bragged to her daughter that she had just choked the cracker,” a racial slur referring to Burchell.

Kersey described both women as remorseful, said both admitted their guilt and accepted responsibility for their actions. Kersey said both had shown a loss of “self-control” when they confronted Burchell.

Charges of inducing panic against Jackson over threats to blow up the store she was accused of making at a customer service counter were dropped when it was determined they were not taken seriously, according to Adams. An aggravated menacing charge against Jackson was reduced to disorderly conduct.

The judge watched Walmart surveillance video footage of the incident, which showed Burchell being struck by Duncan with a shopping cart as he tried to turn the cart around after the women became verbally abusive when he asked to see a sales receipt as they attempted to leave.

The choking wasn’t visible on the camera footage, Adams said.

In a statement prepared by Burchell, who was not in court, he said he had grown upset and distrustful of people following the episode, and he was fearful of retaliation in light of a statement allegedly made by Jackson, who was pregnant at the time, that once her boyfriend learned of the incident, Burchell “would not see the end of his shift.”

Both women had prior criminal cases, according to Locke-Graves, who cited a 1993 domestic violence case against Duncan, and a 2008 theft case, and three contempt charges against Jackson.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 392-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.