GREENVILLE — Four accused men pleaded guilty to various charges in Darke County Common Pleas Court Thursday.
Joshua A. Back, 40, of Greenville, pleaded guilty to one third-degree felony count of burglary and entered an “Alford” guilty plea on a first-degree misdemeanor count of assault.
In entering the Alford plea, Back essentially enters a plea of guilty in order to minimize an impending sentence, yet maintains a claim of innocence. The Alford plea refers to a 1970 United States Supreme Court decision in the case of North Carolina versus Alford.
Before Back entered his plea, his defense attorney, Randall Breaden, asked Assistant Prosecutor James Bennett if the state would consider dropping the misdemeanor assault charge. Bennett declined, saying, “I’ve negotiated this in good faith and I have two victims here I have to account to.”
Common Pleas Court Judge Jonathan P. Hein explained to Back that if convicted on the original charge of first-degree burglary, he could be sentenced to up to 11 years in prison. On the amended burglary charge and the misdemeanor count offered by the prosecution, he faces three years in prison at most. Back then entered his pleas.
Judge Hein agreed to a defense request to grant Back, who has been jailed since early August on $25,000 bond, an own recognizance bond, if his housing conditions after release were verified. He is scheduled for sentencing January 29.
Benjamin J. Hampshire, 24, of Union City, Ohio, pleaded guilty to criminal trespass of a habitation, a fourth-degree felony, amended from a first-degree count of aggravated burglary. A second-degree felony charge of felonious assault was also dismissed as part of an agreement with the state. He was represented in court by Breaden.
In April, Hampshire and a co-defendant, Benjamin Reed, entered a house in Bradford, where the two assaulted Jason Garrett. During the altercation, Garrett stabbed Reed in the chest and stomach. Reed, who entered a guilty plea in November, is scheduled to be sentenced for his part in the incident January 22.
Hampshire could face up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine when he is sentenced January 29. He is free on bond.
Bailey F. Hardin, 19, of Greenville, pleaded guilty to amended charges of aggravated trafficking of methamphetamine, a fourth-degree felony, and aggravated possession of meth, a third-degree felony. He was also represented in court by Breaden.
As part of the plea agreement with the Darke County Prosecutor’s Office, a second trafficking charge was dismissed. By mutual recommendation between the prosecution and defense, he could be sent to prison for two years, but may gain judicial release in six months’ time.
Following the hearing, Hardin was taken into custody by court officers on a contempt charge for testing positive for meth and will spend the weekend at the Darke County Jail. His sentencing is scheduled for February 2.
Michael R. Crawford, 21, of Greenville, agreed to plead guilty to one third-degree felony count of having a weapon under disability, after being arrested in September, found in possession of a 9-millimeter handgun.
Darke County Prosecuting Attorney R. Kelly Ormsby told the court that since Crawford has spent nearly three months in jail, the state would not seek additional jail time when Crawford is sentenced January 29. The prosecution is also seeking forfeiture of the gun to the state, if the gun’s lawful owner cannot be determined. Crawford will be free on his own recognizance until sentencing.
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