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BOWLING GREEN - A Southfield, Mich., woman whose boyfriend tried to get false identification at an Ohio license bureau in Bowling Green and was later killed in a dramatic, 32-second shootout with police in Hancock County was sentenced yesterday to three years in prison.
Barbara Jean Clark, 28, pleaded guilty in March to complicity to robbery, a third-degree felony. Prosecutors said she bought the handgun that her boyfriend used to fire at the license bureau and rented the van they drove to Bowling Green.
Before her sentencing, she told Wood County Common Pleas Judge Reeve Kelsey she was "truly remorseful" but didn't know Donti Jamal Henry had taken her handgun the day they went to Bowling Green, where he planned to get an Ohio identification card.
"I was terrified for my life," she said, explaining why she begged Henry to let her out of the van after they drove off from the license bureau. "I didn't know what happened inside that BMV," she said.
Henry, 29, had tried to get a state identification card with fraudulent documents, prompting a license bureau employee to call police. A scuffle ensued in which Henry pulled out a gun and fired one shot into the floor before fleeing in the van with Clark.
As he headed south on I-75, Henry stopped and let Clark out of the van. He then led police, state troopers, and sheriff's deputies from Wood and Hancock counties on a 40-mile chase that culminated in a shootout outside a Bluffton convenience store.
With a gun in each hand and wearing a bulletproof vest, Henry fired 23 shots during the exchange with law enforcement officers. He was shot to death, and two state troopers were wounded.
Harvey Bruner, a Cleveland attorney who represented Clark, said it was Henry's actions that resulted in her being implicated in the crime, because she was unaware either of what happened inside the license bureau or in the shootout that occurred long after she was dropped off on the freeway.
"I know this is a high-profile case for this area, but frankly, most of it was due to the co-defendant in this case, Donti Henry, who is now deceased," Mr. Bruner told the court.
He asked for probation, saying Clark had no criminal record and worked a full-time job at the time of the incident. She now takes care of her parents and the 10-month-old son she had with Henry, he said.
Assistant Wood County Prosecutor Paul Dobson countered that while not all of Henry's actions could be attributed to Clark, she knew more than she was saying. Henry was facing unrelated felony charges in Michigan at the time and was armed and ready for something, Mr. Dobson said.
"What that does not explain is how this woman, who had known this man for more than two years and she indicated was having a child with him, how could she not realize that he was wearing body armor," Mr. Dobson said.
He told the judge she lied and changed her stories several times after her arrest, initially telling Bowling Green police Henry was an acquaintance from the neighborhood. In fact, Mr. Dobson said, she bought the gun just a few days before the trip to Bowling Green, rented the van they traveled in, and had a note in her purse about how to obtain a fake ID.
"The danger he put the public in cannot be completely separated from her," Mr. Dobson said.
Mr. Bruner asked the judge to postpone her sentence for a few days so she could make arrangements for child care, but the judge declined. Mr. Bruner said afterward because she has no criminal record, she would likely apply for judicial release in six months - the earliest she could be released from prison.
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