October 23, 2014

Medina
Partly cloudy
43°F

Ex-football player pleads no contest to robbing bong from tobacco store

Seth Cunningham, 22, and one of his attorneys, Gerald Piszczek, listen during a change of plea hearing Monday in Medina County Common Pleas Court while county assistant Prosecutor Michael McNamara looks on. Judge Christopher J. Collier said Cunningham faces between six and 14 years in prison for robbing a glass water pipe from a Brunswick tobacco shop at gunpoint in May. (NICK GLUNT / GAZETTE)

Seth Cunningham, 22, and one of his attorneys, Gerald Piszczek, listen during a change of plea hearing Monday in Medina County Common Pleas Court while county assistant Prosecutor Michael McNamara looks on. Judge Christopher J. Collier said Cunningham faces between six and 14 years in prison for robbing a glass water pipe from a Brunswick tobacco shop at gunpoint in May. (NICK GLUNT / GAZETTE)

MEDINA — A suspended University of Akron football player from Montville Township has pleaded no contest to robbing a glass water pipe from a Brunswick tobacco shop at gunpoint in May.

Medina County Assistant Prosecutor Michael McNamara and 22-year-old Seth Cunningham’s attorneys — Joseph Salzgeber and father-daughter pair Gerald and Melissa Piszczek — agreed as part of a plea deal on the minimum prison sentence of six years.

But county Common Pleas Judge Christopher J. Collier said he doesn’t have to go along with the agreed sentence.

“I’m not on board,” Collier told Cunningham, “so you could get significantly more” prison time.

The judge requested a pre-sentence investigation and scheduled Cunningham, of 3175 Central Park Lane, for sentencing on April 14.

Cunningham, who changed his plea from not guilty on Monday, is charged with aggravated robbery, a first-degree felony, and two gun specifications that extend prison time and make it mandatory. The specifications charge him with brandishing a weapon while robbing the store.

He was a senior at the University of Akron on May 13, when he was arrested an hour after a robbery at Twilight Boutique, a 24-hour shop in Brunswick’s Archway Plaza. Workers said a masked man in a camouflage jacket and armed with a 9mm handgun came in just after midnight and stole a “glass water bong” priced at $447.

While searching for the robber, a Brunswick police officer said he saw a black pickup pull into the driveway of a home he was familiar with. He said he approached the vehicle and found Cunningham crouched inside with a camouflage jacket, a gun and a bong.

According to police, Cunningham admitted almost immediately that he stole the bong.

The change of plea followed a ruling by the judge that Cunningham’s initial confession was inadmissible in court because it was obtained before police informed the man of his rights to an attorney and to remain silent.

Cunningham’s attorneys had also argued through a motion to suppress evidence that police had no reasonable suspicion to approach his vehicle, but the judge denied that portion.

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com.