June 26, 2016

Partly sunny

Before the judge again

MEDINA — Angelo Pirovolos has been in prison for more than a year after pleading no contest to shooting his brother-in-law in April 2008.
Now, he’s asking to change his plea and may be able to because of an Ohio Supreme Court decision covering sentencing language.

In September 2008, Pirovolos, 57, of Medina, pleaded no contest to several counts — including attempted murder and felonious assault — that stemmed from the shooting of his brother-in-law near the Dairy Queen on Northland Drive. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison and was sent to the Mansfield Correctional Institution.

But due to a Supreme Court decision in June that affects thousands of felony cases statewide, the Pirovolos case is back in Medina County Common Pleas Court and he is in the Medina County Jail. Pirovolos was scheduled to be resentenced last month but has since filed a request to change his plea. If Common Pleas Judge James L. Kimbler accepts his request, Pirovolos could receive a trial.

med-a1-color-4-cols-050908pirovolos-copy From left, attorney John Carlin, Sheriff’s Deputy Bruce Cornelius and Angelo Pirovolos appears at a 2008 arraignment. Pirovolos is now asking to change his plea. (Gazette file photo)

“To me, it’s hyper-technical and it’s silly,” county Prosecutor Dean Holman said of the court’s decision in State of Ohio v. Bloomer. The case changed the parole language judges must use in sentencing and required they resentence thousands of felons who were sentenced in the last three years using the old language.

Prior to this summer, judges sentenced individuals convicted of first- and second-degree felonies to “up to” five and three years of parole, respectively. But the Bloomer case specified the phrase “up to” fails to notify the defendants of their mandatory parole time and therefore nullifies the sentence.

Holman said he now has to review the 500 Medina County cases that have people serving prison time to ensure the sentences still stand.

In the Pirovolos case, he is appealing his sentence, and the appeals court sent the case back to the common pleas court after noticing the incorrect language.

The appeals court cannot hear his case until the sentence is corrected.

“Because they improperly sentenced him, it’s like he’s never been sentenced,” Kimbler said, noting that is why Pirovolos may be able to change his plea.

He said he will decide in the next two weeks if Pirovolos can change it.

The case

Kimbler said a 1996 law created three levels of parole for those convicted of felonies: a mandatory five years for first-degree offenses and sexual offenders, a mandatory three years for second-degree offenses, and up to three years for third-, fourth- and fifth-degree offenses.

Over the years, he said, many judges have been using the “up to” phrase in any sentencing, even for the mandatory terms for first- and second-degree offenders.

Common Pleas Judge Christopher J. Collier said there have been several appeals court and Supreme Court cases dealing with “up to” in the parole portions of sentencing. But, he said, none of those cases explicitly detailed how to address the wording.

“Until June or July of this year, all of the judgment entries would say ‘up to,’ ” he said. “They would be reviewed by the court of appeals and everything would be OK.”

But Collier said the Bloomer case this year took away any confusion relating to sentencing.

“That case was really the bright line rule that ended any discussion from anybody on what they mean,” he said.

The Bloomer case involved the illegal manufacture of drugs in Fulton County. James C. Bloomer pleaded guilty to a count of illegal manufacture of drugs, a second-degree felony, and was sentenced to four years in prison. Although Bloomer signed a guilty-plea form and an acknowledgment of sentencing components that advised him of the mandatory three-year period of post-release control (parole), the court failed to include post-release control in its sentencing entry, according to court records.

On the lookout

Holman said he’s asked the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections to notify his office when someone Medina County has incarcerated is up for parole.

“If it’s not corrected before they’re released, the post-release control won’t take effect,” he said.

He said in the last month, his office has had to take action on 12 cases due to the Bloomer ruling. Both county’s common pleas judges have said most of the resentencings haven’t been much of a hassle.

“Most of these people, they’ve come back and we’ve already dealt with them,” Kimbler said.

“I just basically resentence them and use the magic language.”
“Everybody’s trying to do what’s right in the law,” Collier said.

He said he and other judges are ensuring sentences are done correctly from here on out.

“We just make it part of what we do now,” he said.

Contact Maria Kacik at (330) 721-4049 or mkacik@ohio.net.