LIMA — A Lima man who police say pistol-whipped his victim during a robbery attempt was in court Monday to fire his court-appointed attorney.
Justin Shears, 33, of Lima, appeared in Allen County Common Pleas Court to formally request that public defender John Hopkins be removed from his case. Shears, facing charges of aggravated robbery with a firearm specification, felonious assault with a firearm specification and having a weapon under disability, had written a letter to Judge David Cheney claiming a toxic relationship existed between the defendant and lawyer.
Hopkins conceded to Cheney during the hearing that the lines of communication between the two men have “broken down,” and the judge appointed public defender Greg Donohue to take over Shears’ representation.
According to court documents, Lima police officers were called at 3:25 a.m. Sept. 20, 2017 to Marko’s Bar on South Main Street in response to the report of an alleged assault. Police found the victim, Hubert Hankison, who suffered multiple wounds on his head after being pistol-whipped. Witnesses told police Shears approached Hankison and struck him in the back of the head with a revolver. The victim fell to the pavement, and Shears reportedly attempted to remove items from Hankison’s pockets, witnesses said.
The victim then attempted to flee back into the bar, according to court documents, but was reportedly threatened again by Shears, who demanded he turn over his belongings. Shears reportedly threatened Hankison by threatening to shoot him before witnesses intervened. Shears subsequently fled the scene and was identified through security camera footage. He eluded police until earlier this year.
Shears was indicted by a grand jury in June on the felony charges. During Monday’s hearing, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Kyle Thines reiterated a plea deal that has been offered to the defendant. Under the state’s offer, Shears would plead guilty to the aggravated robbery charge, a first-degree felony with a three-year firearm specification, in exchange for the dismissal of all remaining charges. The deal stipulates that Shears’ sentence would be capped at five years on the robbery charge and a mandatory three additional years on the firearm specification.
The offer will remain in place for 10 days, Thines said.
Shears is looking at a maximum of 28 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
Reach J Swygart at 567-242-0464.