When former Ottawa Hills police officer Thomas White was sentenced in Lucas County Common Pleas Court Monday to 10 years in prison, the tears that fell were from the man he shot.
Michael McCloskey, Jr., said that throughout the year since he'd been shot in the back and paralyzed during a May 23, 2009, traffic stop, he's had to deal with "uncontrollable emotions" that he admittedly had difficulty putting into words. Monday, he said the word that came to mind was "justice."
White, 27, of Toledo was convicted May 14 of felonious assault with a gun specification. A jury deliberated for about six hours after a weeklong trial before reaching a verdict.
Monday, Judge Gary Cook sentenced White to seven years in prison for the felonious assault charge plus an additional mandatory three years for the gun specification.
However, just hours after being handcuffed and taken into custody, White posted a $100,000 appellate bond in the form of a cashier's check for the full amount. The bond, which assistant prosecutors opposed, will allow White to remain out of custody pending his appeal before the 6th District Court of Appeals, which could take months.
Mr. McCloskey, 25, who was just out of the hospital where he underwent additional treatment for his injury, did not speak at the sentencing. Upon hearing the sentence, he wept.
"I broke down into tears," he said of his reaction to the sentence.
In a lengthy statement made before his sentencing, White spoke of his past achievements and defended his actions on the night of the shooting by saying he responded in the way he was trained to do. He said he was "at a loss" to understand how a police officer was indicted on criminal charges "because of a split-second decision."
"On May 23, 2009, I performed and fulfilled the duties required by my oath of office as an Ohio peace officer for the village of Ottawa Hills," he said. "…I recognize that Mr. McCloskey's injuries are unfortunate but I did what I was required to do, by law and by my oath of office."
White said he knew he faced prison time but added that no amount of years confined would reverse what occurred.
"And there is no amount of punishment or rehabilitation that would have changed my decision on May 23, 2009, with the information that I had at the time," he said. "I did what I was required to do by law and by my oath as a peace officer."
White did not offer an apology during his statement and shook his head while Judge Cook explained that he should have taken the time to better assess the situation.
The judge acknowledged White's past in law enforcement and the difficult job of police officers. But he said that White did not take the time to look at what was in front of him and understand what he was encountering.
"You can shake your head if you want, but this here amplifies the point, your unwillingness to accept something other than what you think happened," Judge Cook said, adding that part of White's duty that night was to observe.
"You didn't even give it a second to take a breath and look at what was going on and for that a tragedy occurred," he said.
Prior to the sentencing, the judge denied three motions filed by White's attorneys, including a motion for a new trial. He added that the issues raised would be better addressed by the appellate court.
Because no restitution dollar amount was available, the judge said that it would be addressed at a later date if necessary.
Toledo attorney Jerry Phillips, who represented White during the trial, declined to comment on the sentence but noted, "It's a sad situation all the way around."
After the sentencing, Mr. McCloskey expressed gratitude to assistant prosecutors Jeff Lingo and J. Christopher Anderson for their work. He also expressed a desire to end what he believed was the profiling of motorcyclists.
Mr. McCloskey filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Toledo in June, 2009, against White and the village alleging that his civil rights were violated when the officer shot him. Judge David Katz put the case on hold pending the outcome of the criminal trial.
Mr. Lingo, who spoke on Mr. McCloskey's behalf during the sentencing, said that White was not convicted of "doing his job but of using excessive force." He said after the sentencing that other officers should not put themselves in danger because of what happened in this case.
"Police officers don't set out to commit a crime; however, in this case, under these circumstances, I think it's appropriate," he said of the charge and subsequent conviction of White.
"There is no message intended. This is a single individual and his acts in about five minutes on May 23, 2009."
Mr. McCloskey's mother, Darlene Thorn, noted later that those five minutes have changed so many lives forever. She said she still expects her son to drive down her road every time she hears the roar of a motorcycle.
She is heartsick in the next moment when reality returns, she said.
"He took away my bear hugs. He took away my mother-son wedding dance," Mr. McCloskey's mother said after the sentencing. "My son got a life sentence."
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