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Sentence stands in landmark gang case

Jessica Cuffman • Aug 27, 2014 at 2:38 PM

A lengthy appeal has failed for a convicted gang member serving a 25-year prison sentence at Lorain Correctional Institution.

Denarea Swain, 27, formerly of Sandusky, has served two years of his sentence for gang- and drug-related crimes.

In November 2011, a jury convicted him of two counts trafficking in drugs, having a weapon while under disability, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and participating in a criminal gang — a result of a landmark trial, one of the first in Erie County where prosecutors filed formal gang charges against a defendant.

The case combined two criminal indictments, relied on testimony from police officers and cautious witnesses, and included a review of Swain’s criminal history, including gun incidents in Elyria and Toledo to establish Swain’s pattern of violence previous to the June 2010 shooting in Sandusky that led prosecutors to file the gang case.

Witnesses at the trial said Swain was one of the people who participated in the Hancock Street shootout between rival gangs, where now convicted cop killer Kevin Randleman, 52, was struck in the foot by a stray bullet.

Ultimately, the 2011 conviction landed Swain a 25-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine, handed down by Erie County Common Pleas Judge Roger Binette.

The 50-page opinion from the Ohio Sixth District of Appeals issued Monday addressed eight alleged assignments of error by Binette’s court.

In his appeal, Swain’s attorney, Derek Farmer, alleged the court violated Swain’s constitutional rights by refusing to admit the public to the courtroom during jury questioning, failed to suppress evidence obtained through unreasonable search and seizure, and wrongly prohibited Swain’s attorney from cross-examining witnesses, according to court documents.

Farmer also alleged prosecutors presented insufficient evidence for conviction at trial and Swain’s defense attorneys provided ineffective assistance.

But in the appeals court’s opinion, the three-judge panel found no merit to those alleged errors, and confirmed Swain’s conviction and sentence.

Swain’s prison sentence isn’t set to expire until 2036.

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