Violent Encounters: A Tale of Two Pizza Shops

By Ken Hanson, Esq.

Akron Pizza Shop Summer 2004

Our readers will remember the horrific July 2004 beating of Joseph Scarpino by convicted felon Mark Jones which occurred while Mr. Scarpino waited in line at DaVinci's Pizza Shop in Akron.

Mr. Jones was, at the time he administered the unprovoked beating, on two years probation for possession of cocaine and marijuana trafficking.

For those who do not remember, the video of the beating will surely jog your memory. (In perverse media fashion, this video-taped beating made a CBS News "Best of 2005" list.)

Even more horrifying than the beating of Mr. Scarpino was the reaction of the seven patrons present in the pizza shop during the beating - patrons who witnessed the entire exchange from start to finish. Their reaction? Ignore it.

This apathy played large in the media at the time, as Ohio just passed, after nearly 12 years of debate, a concealed carry law full of poison pills, and licenses were just then being issued, allowing the small number of initial, first-wave applicants to brave the terms of the burdensome law and go out into public while armed.

Mark Jones was convicted of felonious assault in February 2005 for the beating and sentenced to four years in prison. (As felonious assault carries a minimum two-year and maximum eight-year sentence in Ohio, Mr. Jones didn't even reach the mid-range sentence of five years.) This would ordinarily be the end of a typical "if only an armed person had been present to stop the offender" story. However, while researching this case a little further in response to a class I taught, I discovered the story does not end there.

It turns out that Mr. Jones felt he learned his lesson in prison, and filed a motion to be released after serving only two years of his sentence. That motion was properly denied. Not willing to take no for an answer, Mr. Jones filed his motion for early release again in 2008. Despite vigorous opposition from Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan-Walsh, Summit County Common Pleas Judge Brenda Burnham-Unruh, who heard this beating case in horrifying detail as the presiding trial judge (and was the judge burned for sentencing Mr. Jones to probation only in the original trafficking case), released Mr. Jones from prison on February 7, 2008, with more than a year left to serve on his original sentence. Judge Burnham-Unruh "threw the book" at Mr. Jones by ordering 90 days of intensive supervision and anger management classes.

Not coincidentally, at this same time, Judge Burnham-Unruh was launching her own personal program to "break the cycle of violence." Mr. Jones would apparently be one of the first "clients" in this community-based program. (Judge Burnhum-Unruh would, within a month of this shocking release, win an uncontested primary election to retain her seat.)

You will be shocked (!) that Mr. Jones did not thrive in his anger management classes or his mentoring, and, within four months of being released by Judge Burnhum-Unruh, kicked down the door of his former girlfriend and physically beat her. (Court records in this new felony violence case reveal a subpoena issued for a "P. Simms" for the trial, so it is abundantly clear that the victim "former girlfriend" in the new violent felony was the young lady that accompanied Mr. Jones on his night of infamy at the pizza shop.)

In this new violent felony case, Mr. Jones was convicted in September 2008 of two counts of aggravated burglary, two counts of domestic violence and one count of obstructing official business. Court records show Mr. Jones was sentenced to five years in prison for this new case, resentenced to four years in prison for violating the terms of his early release from prison in the original pizza shop beating case, and re-sentenced to nine months in prison for violating his probation in the original drug trafficking case.

All of these sentences are ordered to be served consecutively, meaning Mr. Jones will be in prison for nearly a decade, unless some judge releases him early, again.

This remains a possibility, as Judge Burnhum-Unruh won the general election and is "serving" as judge until at least 2014. Mark Jones, aka Inmate A553960, is scheduled for review by the parole board in 2014.

Akron Pizza Shop Spring 2009

Spring 2009 is five years into Ohio's concealed carry license law with approximately 150,000 licenses issued, and two revision laws passed, which stripping away many of the poison pills in the original law.

Twenty year-old Patrick Finney, with an active warrant for his arrest, walks into Your Pizza Shop in Akron, Ohio, with the intent to rob the store. Your Pizza Shop has been robbed four times in the prior two years.

Mr. Finney, wearing an orange ski mask over his head and holding a sawed-off shotgun, demands money from shop-owner J.H., an Ohio concealed carry licensee. J.H. immediately hands over a stack of $10 bills from the register, but Mr. Finney is not satisfied and points the shotgun at J.H.'s head. In fear for his life, J.H. pulls his gun and shoots Mr. Finney, who dies from the wounds he receives.

While it is never appropriate to take comfort or pleasure in the taking of a human life, the difference between the two cases speaks volumes and needs no further explanation.

Ken Hanson is a gun rights attorney in Ohio who serves as the Legislative Chair for Buckeye Firearms Association. He is the attorney of record for Buckeye Firearms Foundation, which filed an amicus brief in the Heller case. In 2008, the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) awarded him with its Defender of Justice Award. He is the author of The Ohio Guide to Firearm Laws, a certified firearms instructor and holds a Type 01 Federal Firearms License.

[UPDATE: AGAIN in Akron! More proof of dysfunction in criminal justice system]

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