ELYRIA — Attorneys for the Lorain man shot by North Ridgeville police officers in 2010 after he tried to run them down have asked a county judge to give him early release from prison.
Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge has scheduled a hearing for next month to determine whether he should cut the four-year prison sentence he imposed on Jeffrey Phillips last year. Phillips, who was in custody while he awaited trial, has served a little more than two years of the sentence.
“Mr. Phillips understands that he committed a crime and that the only responsible party is he who stares at him from the mirror,” defense attorney Michael Stepanik wrote. “However, at some point time spent incarcerated begins to cease being rehabilitative. It ceases to be retributive. It transforms itself into punishment for punishment’s sake.”
North Ridgeville Police Chief Michael Freeman, then a lieutenant, Officer Dean Mraz and other officers went to the car dealership where Phillips was working on April 1, 2010, to arrest him on a warrant from Lorain police for a domestic violence incident earlier in the day with his sister.
Instead of surrendering, police said Phillips fled officers and got into his 2002 Chrysler 300. One of the officers drew his gun and ordered Phillips to show his hands, but he revved the engine and shouted, “Move (expletive) or I am going to run you over.”
When Phillips was told he would be shot if he drove toward officers, he reportedly replied, “I guess you’ll have to shoot me then.”
He accelerated toward Freeman and Mraz, who opened fire at the car, hitting Phillips several times, including in the left hand, left shoulder and left wrist. He then sped out of the parking lot and led police on a chase that ended in Lorain, where he was apprehended.
A county grand jury reviewed the case and determined that Freeman and Mraz were justified when they shot Phillips, who has a history of fleeing police. He previously served six years in prison after being convicted of robbing a gas station while armed with a shotgun and leading police on a chase in 2002.
He also led police on a chase in 2008, but received a light sentence and a $25,000 payment from the city of Elyria after a corrections officer slammed him face-first into a wall at the city jail.
Stepanik wrote that Phillips has learned from his latest encounter with police.
“The bullet holes in his hands have left an indelible mark on him not only physically, but mentally, as well,” Stepanik wrote. “The events of that day haunt him every night he lays his head down in the penitentiary.”
Phillips pleaded guilty to felonious assault, assault on a police officer, fleeing, resisting arrest and other charges before Burge imposed the four-year sentence.
Prosecutors have objected to Phillips being released early.
“Shortening the defendant’s prison sentence would cheapen the risk of harm and fear felt by the officers because of the defendant’s violent behavior,” County Assistant Prosecutor Nick Hanek wrote in court documents.
“Shortening the defendant’s prison sentence would also denigrate the peril in which the defendant placed the general public during his flight.”
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.