Teen gets 28 years in prison

By J Swygart - jswygart@limanews.com

LIMA — A Lima teenager who at age 17 participated in armed robberies at two Lima businesses was sentenced Monday to a minimum of 28 years in prison.

Juan Freeman II, now 18, was found guilty by Allen County Common Pleas Court Judge Terri Kohlrieser in a day-long trial. Freeman earlier this month waived his right to a jury trial and elected to have Kohlrieser alone determine his fate on three counts of aggravated robbery, each of which included three-year firearm specifications.

The charges stem from armed robberies in January 2020 at Hermies Party Shop and Little Caesar’s pizza in Lima. Freeman and Na’zier Howard, who was also 17 years old at the time of the Jan. 14, 2020, robberies, were indicted by the July 2020 session of the grand jury in connection with the hold-ups.

The cases against Freeman were tried separately and by noon the teenager had been found guilty in the incident at Hermie’s.

Testimony then focused on the pizza shop robbery, where Freeman faced two counts of aggravated robbery — one for money taken from the establishment and another for money removed from the wallet of a man inside the Little Caesar’s establishment on Calumet Avenue.

Nathaniel Bankston, an employee at the business, was off the clock but stopped at the pizzeria on the evening of Jan. 14, 2020. He testified that one of two assailants who entered the store with guns drawn ordered him to the floor and took an undetermined amount of money from his wallet. He described the man as the talker of the two robbers.

Defense attorney Marcus Moll said his client stands only 5-foot-3 and was clearly not the one who robbed Bankston. Prosecutors argued that the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that individuals who engage in criminal behavior with a co-defendant are complicit in any crimes committed by that co-defendant and that Freeman should be found guilty of robbing Bankston.

While both robbers wore masks at each location, Lima Police Department Detective Matt Boss testified that he was able to identify one of the assailants who briefly lifted his mask during the robbery at Hermie’s. Boss said he had previous dealings with Freeman and recognized him from the brief instant when his mask was raised.

Also played during the trial was a jailhouse interview conducted by Boss with Freeman at the Lima police department. In that recorded interview Freeman admitted being at both the robberies and said he needed money “to help out the family.”

The primary argument of defense attorney Marcus Moll centered around his contention that no evidence or testimony was presented to show the object carried by Freeman in both incidents was an operable firearm and therefore could not be determined to meet the legal definition of a deadly weapon.

Asking that a lengthy sentence be imposed on Freeman, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Mariah Cunningham cited a lengthy list of juvenile offenses that Kohlrieser said she found “extremely disturbing.”

According to Cunningham, a former juvenile court prosecutor, Freeman has adjudications in juvenile court starting at age 12 for a weapons and inducing panic charge and again at age 15 for carrying a concealed weapon. At age 17 he robbed Hermie’s and Little Caesar’s and in May of 2020 was charged with attempted escape. In October of 2020 Freeman did escape from custody of the juvenile detention center after being transported to the emergency department at Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center. He was apprehended six weeks later in Waterloo, Iowa.

Freeman apologized to his victims and told the judge he “made bad choices” and “never had no guidance” growing up. He showed no emotion when the sentences were announced but did cry when his mother addressed the court. Tammy Holly said her son “is a good kid, he just has bad impulses.”

https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2021/04/web1_Freeman-solo.jpgJ Swygart | The Lima News

By J Swygart


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