Following a three-day trial, a Portage County Common Pleas Court jury set free a Cleveland man accused of shooting two men behind a downtown bar on May 25.
Jurors found Brian L. Weems III, 37, not guilty on three counts of felonious assault, all second-degree felonies, and one count of having weapons under disability, a third-degree felony, following the trial that lasted from Aug. 20 to Aug. 23 in Judge Laurie Pittman's courtroom.
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Weems had been arrested by Ravenna police and charged with shooting Deanglo M. Frost, 24, of Ravenna Township, and Byron L. Ridenour-Wright, 24, of Kent, in the legs with a .38-caliber Rossi handgun during an incident in the parking lot of The Den Lounge at 110 N. Meridian St. early on the morning of May 25. A Portage County grand jury later added a third charge of felonious assault alleging that Weems assaulted Jerome C. Latimer, 27, of Ravenna.
Frost and Ridenour-Wright suffered wounds that were not life-threatening and were transported to local hospitals, treated and released. Weems ran from the scene but was found at another bar nearby, with the handgun in his pocket and arrested, Portage County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci said. However, Weems claimed self-defense, saying that it was one of the victims who attacked him.
Vigluicci called the case a difficult one, as the victims failed to fully cooperate in Weems' prosecution. Weems' defense attorney, Benjamin Plough, said Latimer even testified in court that Weems was defending himself.
"My client is 6 feet 6 and weighs 280 pounds. The guy he got the gun from is 5 foot 7 and 170 pounds. So he had him by 100 pounds and a foot," Plough said. "This guy tried to rob the wrong guy."
Plough said it helped his case that the alleged victims and witnesses were friends or relatives of each other. "You got the impression something was amiss with what these people were testifying to, that they were leaving something out," he said. "Even those who got shot didn't testify to where the gun came from and didn't remember how it started."
The having weapons under disability charge was filed because Weems is a convicted felon forbidding from possessing or owning firearms, but jurors also cleared him on that charge. Plough said DNA testing on the gun was inconclusive "because so many people had handled (it)," an unspent bullet in the gun wasn't tested for DNA or fingerprints and a gunshot residue test on Weems and the victims showed that "either one of them could have fired the shots."
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