Murder victim's mother outraged by plea deal - 21 News Now, More Local News for Youngstown, Ohio -

Murder victim's mother outraged by plea deal

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - Shirlene Hill, the mother of murdered Youngstown State University student Jamail Johnson, is both devastated and outraged at the Mahoning County Prosecutor's Office.

On Tuesday, one of the men indicted for Johnson's murder in 2011, at an off-campus party, was offered a deal by prosecutors to plead guilty to lesser charges, and 10 years in prison.

Mark Johnson originally faced a murder charge, 11 counts of felonious assault, and discharging a gun into a habitation.

But the plea agreement allowed Johnson to plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter and 10 counts of felonious assault.

In return, prosecutors will recommend that the 21-year-old spend 10 years in prison. Jones could have faced a maximum of 90 years in prison if convicted at trial.

Mark Jones was accused of handing his brother Columbus Jones one of the guns that killed Hill's son and injured 11 others. Columbus Jones has since been convicted of Johnson's murder, and sentenced to spend 92 1/2 years to life in prison.

Hill says she was called just 10 minutes before Mark Jones was going to appear before the judge and told that a deal had been worked out.

She's fighting mad saying this is not justice for her son. "It's devastating for me. I'm the mother of the deceased victim and you tell me that I've got 10 minutes to get down there? As far as the Mahoning County Prosecutor's Office, no one discussed it with me at all. They blind-sided me. As far as I'm concerned Jones got a get out of jail free card, but I have to go to the grave yard to see my son," Hill said.

But Dawn Cantalamessa, with the Mahoning County Prosecutor's Office, says Hill was notified about a possible plea deal and they feel terrible for what she's going through.

However, Cantalamessa says one critical witness, who could have put the gun in Mark Jones hand and could corroborate the testimony of another key witness, can't be located.

Cantalamessa says, "We made the offer and she knew about this offer months ago when we were in trial with Columbus, because that was told to her when we were doing it. She wasn't in agreement then, and we explained to her that we would try to find this other witness in the meantime."

Hill tells 21 News that is absolutely not true. The murder victim's mother says prosecutors never consulted with her about a possible plea deal involving Mark Jones.

But with Jones trial quickly approaching prosecutors say they wanted to ensure that Jones would serve some prison time for his role in Johnson's death, and the wounding of 11 others.

The victim, 25-year-old Jamail Johnson, was hailed a hero by witnesses who said the YSU senior tried to stop the shooting and ushered others to safety.

But what's most painful for his mother, prosecutors recommended a 10 year sentence for Mark Jones, but he could be free in as few as 5 years.

"I feel like they stabbed me in my heart once again. Paul Gains the prosecutor and the office stabbed me in my heart," Hill says.

When asked about the prosecutor's obligation in informing victims about plea deals, Prosecutor Cantalamessa said, "The law says we have to notify her. But we are the legal experts, and I know she has a lot of feelings in this case. It is her son. And we feel bad, just as anybody would, but we also have to look at the legal aspects and proving our case and what we can prove and what we can't prove."

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