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Man gets new trial on 1 of 4 charges

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

A former Sandusky man serving a 27-year prison sentence for orchestrating an attempted robbery gone wrong will revisit an Erie County courtroom.

Justin Stowers, 24, incarcerated at Trumbull Correctional Institution, will get a new trial on one of the charges he was convicted of, according to an Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals opinion issued Friday.

Stowers was convicted of two counts complicity to felonious assault, complicity to aggravated robbery and having a weapon while under disability after a July 2012 jury trial.

Stowers’ girlfriend at the time had lured a Cleveland man to Sandusky under the pretenses of meeting for a drink, according to court documents. She then had him drive her to an East Madison Street home, and when she exited the vehicle, two other men shot at him as Stowers was walking up the street.

The victim managed to get back into his truck and escape, driving to the State Highway Patrol Office on U.S. 6, where he reported the attempted robbery.

Through cell phone records, Sandusky police identified the woman and Stowers’ co-defendants and, through plea agreements with them, obtained testimony against Stowers.

After the jury convicted him, Erie County Common Pleas Judge Roger Binette sentenced Stowers to 27 years in prison, 11 of which are mandatory.

In his appeal, Stowers made three arguments, one alleging prosecutorial misconduct, another challenging the jury’s verdict forms and a third alleging there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him of the weapons charge.

Appeals court judges denied the first two arguments.

But they agreed there wasn’t enough evidence to convict Stowers of the weapons charge.

The appeals court found there was no evidence presented that showed Stowers knew his co-defendants had guns, or that he ever had control over them.

The appeals court also noted the jury that heard the case rejected other weapons-related specifications that would have added years on to Stowers’ case.

“Because the evidence fails to support the finding that appellant ‘knowingly’ possessed a weapon, it follows that the jury lost its way when convicting him of having a weapon while under disability,” according to the opinion issued Friday.

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