Tears welled in Jeremiah Donovan’s eyes Monday as he awaited sentencing in the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas.
Found guilty April 21 of a 2015 stabbing outside Wellington’s Mosey Inn, Donovan, 29, was sentenced by judge Mark Betleski to six months in the Lorain County Jail, four years of probation, and 250 hours of community service.
Charges stemming from the incident were attempted murder, four counts of felonious assault, and one count of simple assault.
Defense attorney James Burge said his client’s post traumatic stress disorder, brought on by Army service in Afghanistan, was largely responsible for the stabbing that left Bradley Estep of Wellington with a lacerated liver and Theresa Graham, also of Wellington, with a severe cut on her arm.
“Donovan went to Afghanistan a healthy boy but he isn’t one now,” said Burge. “A great deal of fault here isn’t his. He is not a sociopath and wants forgiveness. Don’t make Donovan take 10 steps backward here. We always hear about being ‘Army strong’ and ‘Marine tough,’ but no one is really that tough.”
The sentencing had been pushed back from June 12 after Donovan was charged June 5 with felony menacing by stalking and telephone harassment in Stark County.
Kelly Estep, mother of one stabbing victim, said those new charges should show the court that Donovan had not “learned his lesson.”
“I felt bad the first time I saw Jerry (Donovan) cry, but not anymore,” she said. “He’s been in more trouble now and was stalking Theresa Graham in events leading up to the stabbing. My son has PTSD now too. He’s been back to the hospital for problems with his liver and a collapsed lung from the stabbing. I’m thankful, though, that I’m not here for a murder trial.”
Donovan apologized for his actions during the hearing and cited difficulties he’s had returning to civilian life after serving in the Army.
“This is something that shouldn’t have happened,” he said. “They don’t prepare us when we get back. They give us counseling to get a job and go to school. But when you’re getting fired at, where you could die at any moment, you have to react a certain way because of that.”
“I was trying to find my way after getting back and I stumbled,” he said. “I admit it. I shouldn’t have been at the bar. I shouldn’t have been drinking. The night this happened was the last time that happened. I won’t drink. I only want to continue my education because I know what I can do for a community with my education.”
Assistant county prosecutor Allan Regas said the incident in Stark County, combined with a previous domestic violence case in which the victim refused to cooperate, showed the Mosey Inn stabbing was not an isolated incident. He asked Betleski to consider a 10-year prison sentence.
“The facts scream at this court that a prison sentence is needed,” he said. “Bradley Estep was a good Samaritan in this situation. He’s at work today because he couldn’t afford to take off for court. His wound wasn’t a nick. Donovan tried to kill him for helping the other victim.”
According to Regas, Donovan was also involved in two other incidents that same night leading up to the stabbing: another fight at the Mosey Inn and showing up at the home of of a woman who worked at the bar.
While friends offered to give Donovan a ride home, he instead returned to the bar and waited for Graham to go outside, Regas said.
“He knew he had other options and decided not to take them,” he said. “This man sitting here asking for mercy is the one who grabbed a knife and attacked.”
Betleski took several minutes to make the ruling and said it came with “severe misgivings.” He said Donovan would receive a 17-year prison sentence if he gets in trouble again.
Probation terms include staying away from bars, avoiding contact with the victims or their families, and maintaining verifiable employment.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.