Joe Yost is behind bars.
Though the convicted thief didn't get as harsh a punishment as many of his former tenants hoped, some residents were satisfied Yost must now serve at least some jail time and give back to the community from which he stole.
On Thursday, Erie County Common Pleas Court Judge Roger Binette sentenced the owner of the now-defunct Hoppers mobile home park to 180 days in jail — the maximum sentence Ohio law allows for Yost's single misdemeanor theft charge.
Watch the sentencing hearing in the player below
Yost, 68, is required to serve 90 of those days in the Erie County jail and may have to serve the additional 90 days if he violates his probation. He'll also have to serve 500 hours of community service — 250 in a food kitchen and 250 in a homeless shelter.
Yost's sentencing hearing came after a tumultuous year for the roughly 30 households who called the the Hopper's mobile home park at Tiffin Avenue and Venice Road home.
The residents paid Yost for their water bills, Yost failed to pass those payments on to the city.
The park's water access was shut off last August as a result — its residents ousted from their homes and a close-knit community scattered to the wind.
A handful of those residents gathered together again at Yost's Thursday hearing, expressing their frustration and asking Binette for various penalties.
Ultimately, Binette opted against the jail-free sentence special prosecutor Dean Holman and defense attorney Jonathan Blakely recommended when Yost pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor last month.
Thursday's sentencing hearing was rife with drama.
Both Dennis Murray and Dick Brady, speaking as Sandusky city commissioners, voiced displeasure with the totality of the circumstances of Yost's actions and the ensuing legal process.
Holman later admonished Brady, saying he was “grandstanding” and calling his statements “shameful.”
One tenant was tossed from the courtroom after she interjected during Holman's comments about how she was not paying her bills.
“I have my receipts and that's a lie,” she said as she was being escorted out.
When Blakely made a statement about Yost installing new water meters, the group of tenants burst out into laughter, prompting a reprimand from Binette.
There were no outbursts from Yost however — he sat quietly in his chair, hands folded for most of the hearing.
Rather than reading it himself, Blakely instead read a lengthy statement Yost prepared in his own defense. During those comments, Blakely cited Yost's supposed numerous business contributions to the area.
“I take pride in being a productive citizen in our community,” Blakely read on Yost's behalf.
When it came time for Yost to speak, he uttered only a few lines:
“Truly I feel bad for the tenants who were paying and how this all transpired, but the economics of the whole park wouldn't let this continue. It just wasn't working,” Yost said.
Binette later weighed in, but his comments were not nearly as abbreviated.
“You just stopped paying the water bill because that is what you wanted to do. One resident...indicated that before you took over the mobile home park, her water bill was $20 a month, but afterwards, it was $45 a month. And you told her basically 'I can do what I want',” Binette said.
The judge also rattled off a long list of poor business practices Yost appears to have engaged in over the years.
“You try to get your way, you try to control people and control situations around you under your terms. That's not how we live in society. It's called responsibility and accountability,” Binette said.
He told Yost he was blaming everyone but himself: the bank, the city, the tenants, the media.
Blakely tried to make a case for a more lenient penalty, emphasizing Yost's age and nearly destitute financial situation.
But Binette called out those claims—pointing out Yost's current residence in a $260,000 home in a posh lakeside neighborhood.
After the sentence was handed down, Blakely voiced his concern about Yost's inability to pay.
The defense attorney then referred to Yost's three years of probation, saying “And (Yost will) be...not a young man.”
“There were some people who were not a 'young man' living in the trailer park,” Binette said, referring to the elderly tenants, disabled people and children who were forced from their Hoppers homes.
Some of those tenants spoke with the Register after the hearing.
They were pleased Yost has to serve Sandusky residents and “see how the other half lives.” They were also pleased with Binette's sentencing decision and a few city officials who tried to help along the way.
But when it comes to Yost, they're still resentful—and in their minds, justifiably so.
Said one: “It's still not enough, it will never be enough.”
— GO TO JAIL, GO DIRECTLY TO JAIL
Erie County Common Pleas Court Judge Roger Binette handed down Joe Yost's sentence on Thursday, which included a variety of requirements and penalties:
• 90 required days in the Erie County jail, which began immediately after his sentencing hearing.
• If Yost violates his probation or fails to pay restitution within three years, he must serve 90 additional days in jail.
• A $1,000 fine, the maximum financial penalty Ohio law allows for a first-degree misdemeanor theft charge.
• Restitution of $2,717.17—the amount investigators said they were able to prove Yost stole.
• Three years of probation.
• 500 hours of community service within two years of his release from jail. Binette ordered Yost serve 250 hours at a Sandusky food kitchen and 250 hours at Volunteers of America (Crossroads homeless shelter) on Superior Street.
• A full-time, verifiable job. For every week Yost is not employed, he must submit 14 job applications.
• Yost's probation cannot be transferred outside of Erie County, unless Binette orders otherwise.
• Yost will pay court costs and a supervision fee of $10 per month.
— HE SHOULD KNOW BETTER
Five former Hoppers mobile home park residents addressed the court before Joe Yost was sentenced:
Tina Hall: "He needs a good dose of humility….let's see if he can't at least help humanity."
Brian Tucker: "My family are not and never will be OK with Mr. Yost of robbing us of not only our money but our house."
Bonita Scroggy, speaking for herself and husband Paul: "We lost our homes, our stability…I think he needs jail time because at the end of the day, even if he does community service, he gets to go home to his home and he put us out of our homes."
Olivia Scisinger: "He threw everybody out and left them on the street and didn't care."
Heather Tucker: "He put families out on the street because of his choice not to pay bills, while my family paid ours. This is not Joe Yost's first property scandal and a person of his age knows better and doesn't care."
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