LIMA — An 86-year-old Lima man who police and prosecutors say struck and injured another man with a 2x4 piece of lumber in a dispute over a ladder was sentenced Wednesday to two years on probation and was ordered to pay for his victim’s medical bills.
James Wash was indicted by an Allen County grand jury in August on two counts of felonious assault, felonies of the second degree, for allegedly causing what court records say was “serious physical harm” to Lima resident Clifford Ewing on July 14. He entered a plea of no contest in November to a lesser charge of aggravated assault, a fourth-degree felony.
Lima police said in court documents that Ewing came to the police station to report the attack. Ewing told police he confronted Wash in an alley behind 611 E. Third St. over payment for the disputed ladder. Ewing said Wash picked up the piece of lumber and struck him, causing a gash over his left eye that required stitches. Ewing had a video recording of the assault, which he presented to police.
Wash did not dispute striking Ewing but told police he did so only “to get Mr. Ewing away from him.”
Wash did not speak during Wednesday’s hearing, but defense attorney Greg Donohue said his client has a “very limited criminal record” which consists almost exclusively of traffic violations and is not by nature a violent man.
“My client asked Mr. Ewing to go away and leave him alone, and Mr. Ewing continued to harass him over an alleged stolen ladder,” Donohue said. “This is not the first time this individual has verbally approached him. The video shows Mr. Ewing being hit — I believe unintentionally — with a 2x4 that my client was loading in a truck.”
Ewing addressed the court and described Wash as someone with a “self-righteous attitude” about making payments toward reimbursing the man for the ladder in question.
“He was belligerent with me and kept trying to absolve himself of any blame,” Ewing said. “I called the police, but they acted like I had interrupted them from watching the Super Bowl or something.”
Judge David Cheney lectured Wash for his vigilante approach to justice.
“You can’t act out like that, for Pete’s sake,” the judge said. “After 86 years, you should have figured that out. You’ve gotta keep your temper under control.”
Wash was on probation at the time of the incident for driving under suspension. The Lima man has been cited 16 times for that same offense.
“That may be a record,” said Cheney, as he sentenced Wash to two years of probation and ordered him to pay $4,783.50 in restitution to his victim.