December 21, 2014

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Lorain police union criticizes teens’ sentence in robbery

LORAIN — The Lorain police union blasted Lorain County Common Pleas Judge Raymond Ewers on Wednesday just hours after the judge sentenced two teenaged robbers to probation.

“I hope the citizens see what kind of judge he is because he clearly is not working for the citizens,” Lorain police Detective Buddy Sivert, who serves as vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police lodge in Lorain, said.

Sivert said the two men, 18-year-old Justin Miller and 19-year-old Gary Epps Jr., should have been given lengthy prison terms for what he described as a violent robbery of the 7-11 on Leavitt Road early May 29.

A video of the incident shows Miller, Epps and a third man, 19-year-old Alexander Lee, wearing masks rush into the store and attack the clerk, Caleb Borden, who was behind the counter.

Borden told police that one of the men, identified by police as Lee, ran up and began punching him. Borden said he was initially stunned but quickly began fighting as the attack continued with Lee trying to force him into a back room.

The fight eventually moved from behind the counter, and Epps tried to intervene, throwing things, including a display rack at Borden.

Borden told police that as he and Lee continued to fight, the other two men fled. Lee also attempted to get away, he said, but Borden pursued him out the door and continued to fight with him in the parking lot, eventually subduing him.

The report said that a motorist, who had stopped at the store to get gas, called police who arrived and took Lee into custody. The report said the fight lasted for roughly seven minutes.

Lee, who earned a measure of notoriety last year for his penchant for stealing Reese’s Cups, denied that he was involved when questioned by police. Both Epps and Miller confessed to planning and being involved in the robbery, according to police.

“It’s sickening to see a violent act like that take place and these guys get less than a guy who gets a DUI or a misdemeanor,” Sivert said.

Lee, who like Miller and Epps, pleaded guilty to robbery, is awaiting sentencing in the case.

The police union said earlier this year that they intended to call out judges who they perceive as being too lenient on criminals. Sivert said while police understand that every crime involves different circumstances, those that involve a violent premeditated robbery need to carry prison time or it will embolden criminals who will think they can get away with light sentences for serious crimes.

Ewers, who warned Miller and Epps that they would go to prison for four years if they got in trouble while on probation, declined to comment on Sivert’s criticism.

But Miller’s lawyer, Mike Camera, said police have no business weighing in on the sentences judges hand down.

“I don’t think the police should be running the courts,” he said. “I’m going to check and see if the people of Lorain County elected the police judge.”

Camera said the role of the police is to investigate and arrest suspects while prosecutors are supposed to try cases. It’s the job of the judge to handle sentencing, he said.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.