6 plead no contest for roles in courthouse disturbance


Against the objection of a Toledo police detective who was assaulted in a disturbance outside the Lucas County courthouse last fall, six individuals charged in the case were permitted to enter no contest pleas to reduced charges on Monday.

Anthony Mitchell, 39, of 828 Magnolia St., who had been charged with aggravated rioting and two counts of retaliation, was found guilty of a single count of retaliation, while Sonia Nieto, 25, of 230 E. Weber St., who was indicted for aggravated rioting and assault, was convicted of obstructing justice. Four others were convicted of misconduct at an emergency, a first-degree misdemeanor.

The six were arrested when a disturbance broke out following the sentencing of Anthony Mitchell, Jr., 16, on Nov. 28 for a rape conviction. Some family members and supporters upset by his 21-year sentence reacted in anger in the courtroom, including making threats to the rape victim. The situation continued outside the courthouse, where some of the defendants threatened police officers and court security personnel.

“On the day in question, multiple public officials were threatened, including judges, prosecutors, attorneys, police officers, and an innocent victim who had already been victimized once,” Toledo Police Det. Shelli Kilburn told Judge Gary Cook before the pleas were accepted. “… The action of the defendants was to show disrespect and disregard for the justice system.”

The detective said she objected to the plea agreements because they set a bad precedent and did not hold the group accountable for what they did.

“In the wake of the shootings of the court officials in Texas in the past few months, I do not believe that these charges should be taken lightly,” Detective Kilburn said.

Judge Cook assured her he was not taking the charges lightly.

“I do understand exactly what you mean by that, and I do have that same thought in mind as far as the seriousness of the situation,” Judge Cook said. “I am going to accept the plea recommendations and proceed, but that doesn’t say how I will handle sentencing.”

Markella Lawrence, 30, of 420 Elizabeth St.; Angel Bowman, 25, of 230 E. Weber St.; Myesha Newton, 20, of 5365 Glenridge Rd.; and Antonie Pernell, 36, of 812 Walbridge St., each face up to six months in jail for the misdemeanor charge when they are sentenced May 15. The elder Mitchell could be sentenced to as much as three years in prison, while Nieto faces up to a year in prison.

Tim Braun, an assistant Lucas County prosecutor, told the court two dozen people were in court Nov. 28 for the younger Mitchell’s sentencing for rape and aggravated burglary and were “very angry” with his sentence.

“They were loud. They were abusive,” he said. “They were making comments in regard to the victim, what the defendant should have done to the victim.”

He said the elder Mitchell and Newton were among the most vocal as they left the courthouse, not only making derogatory comments about the victim in the case, but in telling security officers to stay away from them. Outside, there were more threats.

Mr. Braun said at one point Detective Kilburn, who was the investigator on the rape case, lost her police keys outside while assisting with the arrest of the elder Mitchell. Ms. Bowman began taunting her about the lost keys, and when Detective Kilburn attempted to arrest her, Nieto jumped on the detective’s back, Mr. Braun said. The keys were later found in the bushes by the courthouse.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.