The trial of a Cleveland Heights man accused of shooting a Wellington man at Union Square apartments ended abruptly Tuesday with a no-contest plea.
Gregory Prince, 22, changed his plea at the end of the first day of testimony. In opening arguments Tuesday morning, his attorney had argued his client shot the man because Prince feared for his safety.
Prince pleaded no contest to attempted murder, felonious assault and using a gun while committing the crimes.
A sentencing hearing before Medina County Common Pleas Judge Christopher J. Collier is not yet scheduled, but is expected in four to six weeks.
Prince faces mandatory prison time.
During opening arguments, county Assistant Prosecutor Michael McNamara told the seven-man, five-woman jury that Prince tried to kill Jose Algarin when he shot at him on April 15.
“You’re here to today because Greg Prince tried to kill Jose Algarin,” he told jurors.
McNamara said Algarin, 32, had been asked by his girlfriend’s sister to set up a washing machine in an apartment at Union Square, a low-income housing complex in Medina. When Algarin arrived, he was met by Prince, who was friends with another member of the household.
Algarin walked over to the washing machine and McNamara said that’s when Prince fired.
The bullet struck Algarin in the back of the head, but a malfunction in the 22-caliber handgun meant the bullet didn’t have enough force to puncture the skull. A Medina Hospital physician testified the bullet lodged in Algarin’s skull.
“This guy is lucky,” McNamara said. “It did not penetrate his skull. It fractured his skull because of the gun’s condition.”
McNamara offered no motive for the attack, but Prince’s attorney said his client was scared because Algarin had a bad reputation and was banned from Union Square.
Prince’s attorney, Stephen Hanudel, said Algarin wasn’t there to fix a washing machine. He was there to rob Prince, and Prince was just protecting himself.
“We are not here today to dispute that Gregory Prince shot Jose Algarin,” Hanudel told the jury. “But it’s Gregory Prince who’s the victim of crime here, not Jose Algarin.”
Hanudel said Prince knew Algarin had a criminal history and just had won a wad of cash from playing video games with his friend. He said Prince “feared for his safety,” pointed the gun in Algarin’s direction, looked away and pulled the trigger.
“He was trying to scare him away,” Hanudel said.
Algarin was sentenced to five years at the Lorain Correctional Institution in May 2006 on charges of aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, felonious assault and theft. He’s faced felony charges of receiving stolen property in Lorain County and misdemeanor charges of theft in Medina County since then.