LIMA — A Lima man who held a former University of Northwestern Ohio student against his will, robbed him, forced him to withdraw money from an ATM machine and ordered him, under the threat of death, to obtain additional cash within a week faces up to 22 years in prison after pleading no contest to the charges against him Tuesday.
Justin Meeks, 31, will be sentenced April 20 after an 11th-hour plea in Allen County Common Pleas Court. The halls outside the courtroom of Judge Jeffrey Reed were packed with potential jurors as a trial for Meeks was mere minutes away from beginning when Meeks pleaded no contest to charges that included robbery, kidnapping and extortion in connection with the Feb. 4, 2018, robbery of former UNOH student James Featherstone.
Reed entered convictions on all three counts and ordered a pre-sentence investigation be completed prior to sentencing.
Featherstone and his family, who had traveled from New York to attend Meeks’ trial, were not in the courtroom when the Lima man entered his pleas. Featherstone was offered the opportunity to address the court but chose to make no oral statement. He will have the opportunity to speak at sentencing.
According to court documents, on the evening of Feb. 4, 2018, Featherstone was driving on Allentown Road and failed to stop within the assured clear distance, striking the rear of a white Mercury Mountaineer driven by Meeks. Featherstone told police he approached the vehicle but was told to “get out of here.”
The UNOH student said he drove back to campus and once again encountered the white Mountaineer. He told police a black male exited the vehicle and approached his pickup truck before assaulting him and forcing him out of his vehicle and into the Mountaineer.
A second black male then got into Featherstone’s truck, and both vehicles traveled to a Speedway gas station on North Cable Road. Featherstone was ordered to go into the gas station and remove money from an ATM machine. He withdrew $60 from his account and gave it to the men, along with $25 from his wallet.
The men were subsequently identified as Meeks and Tyler Lee.
During his sentencing hearing late last year, Lee said the scheme was all Meeks’ idea.
“It wasn’t my intention to rob nobody,” Lee said. “I told Meeks I didn’t want nothing to do with this. I didn’t receive no money, and I didn’t ask for no money (from Featherstone). I want to say I’m sorry to the victim, and I wish I would have stopped this from happening,” Lee told the judge.
Lee, 22, of Lima, was sentenced in December to six years in prison.