Johnson sentenced to prison

STEUBENVILLE – Antonio “Smiley” Johnson, 23, of Steubenville, who was convicted by a jury Thursday of attempted murder and felonious assault, was sentenced to 24 and one-half years in prison on Monday by Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr.

Johnson was found guilty of attempted murder and felonious assault. Each of those charges had specifications of Johnson committing the crimes while having a firearm, participating in a criminal gang and firing a gun from a motor vehicle. He also was found guilty of having a weapon as a convicted felon and improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle.

Bruzzese said 10 years of the sentence is mandatory.

Johnson said he will appeal the conviction.

According to testimony at trial, two women and three men were driving from the Labelle section to Pleasant Heights and drove past Johnson’s vehicle on the Lawson Avenue bridge. Johnson turned his vehicle around and followed the other vehicle.

The vehicle with five occupants parked on Orchard Avenue and two of the men got out. Johnson got out of his vehicle and pulled out an assault rifle and fired 17 shots at the men, according the county Prosecutor Jane Hanlin.

Da’Lesha Thorn of Steubenville testified she was a passenger in the vehicle, which included Tristen Hampton, the driver, and Stedmund C. Creech, 23, of Steubenville, Rolland K. Owens, 22, of Wintersville, and a man only known as C.J. Thorn said she saw Johnson pass their vehicle on Lawson Avenue. She said Johnson’s vehicle pulled up behind their vehicle on Orchard Avenue.

Thorn said Johnson got out of his car, stood behind the open driver’s door and pulled out a “shotgun,” which really was an assault rifle.

She identified Johnson in the courtroom during her testimony on Tuesday, the first day of the trial.

Thorn said Owens and C.J. got out of their vehicle and that is when the shooting began. Thorn said she was interviewed by police and she picked Johnson’s picture out of a photo lineup.

Hanlin said shots were returned by one person in the Hampton vehicle, hitting the windshield of Johnson’s vehicle.

Johnson told Bruzzese he has been treated unfairly since the beginning. “The evidence presented unfairly made me look like a monster, but I’m far from that. I feel it is not right,” Johnson said.

Johnson said there was no evidence he fired the shots.

County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin said Johnson had just finished serving a four-year prison term for drug trafficking and was out only 37 days when the shots were fired.

Johnson also pleaded guilty to a charge of escape for not reporting to his parole office on June 29 and two counts of drug trafficking for selling heroin on July 9 and July 10. The sentences for those crimes were rolled into his sentence on the attempted murder and felonious assault.

Defense attorney Steven Stickles asked Bruzzese to set aside the specification of firing a gun from a motor vehicle, which resulted in five years of the total sentence. Stickles said Johnson was standing outside the car when shots were fired. Hanlin said the law states the person only has to have contact with the vehicle for the specification to stand.

Hanlin said the five people in the car that was shot at did nothing to facilitate the crime. She said Johnson turned his vehicle around and began following the other car.

Stickles said the 24-and-one-half-year sentence is longer than Johnson has been alive. He asked Bruzzese to give Johnson some hope for the future.

Bruzzese said Johnson now has five gun convictions. “That’s got to end,” the judge said.

Bruzzese noted that Johnson “sprayed” the Orchard Avenue neighborhood with 17 shots.