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Published: Wednesday, 10/27/2010

Wounded robber draws 15-year term

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Steve A. James watches as his attorney, Jane Roman, tallies his sentence Tuesday. He was convicted of the attempted holdup of Allied Music on South Byrne. Steve A. James watches as his attorney, Jane Roman, tallies his sentence Tuesday. He was convicted of the attempted holdup of Allied Music on South Byrne.
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When Steve A. James entered Allied Music with a gun and the intent to rob, he put several lives at risk, including his own, a Lucas County common pleas judge said Tuesday.

James, 31, of 413 Elmdale Ct., who has recovered from gunshot wounds sustained in the March 12 robbery attempt, was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years behind bars.

In comments to Judge Frederick McDonald, he insisted he wasn't a "gun-toting thug." But the judge noted that James' criminal record began in 2000 and is one of violence.

"You're now 31 years old," the judge said, adding that James has been convicted of "five aggravated robberies, each involving guns."

James pleaded no contest Oct. 6 to one count each of aggravated robbery with a gun specification and having a firearm as a felon. He also admitted he violated his community control on previous felony cases when he committed the crime.

Judge McDonald sentenced James to nine years in prison for the robbery charge consecutive to three years for the gun specification, plus three years for the weapons charge.

Authorities said James entered Allied Music, 2025 South Byrne Rd., about noon and asked the clerk if the store was hiring. After being told there were no employment opportunities, James left but returned a few minutes later with a handgun.

He pointed the gun at the employee's head while demanding $200 cash, authorities said. When the employee led James to the back of the store, where co-owner Eric Bilger was working, he alerted Mr. Bilger that he needed help.

Mr. Bilger, who has a license to carry a concealed weapon, shot at the defendant after seeing James with a gun. James fled from the store and collapsed nearby. He had been shot in the right wrist, right forearm, and left hip.

Mr. Bilger did not attend the sentencing but wrote a letter to the judge. When contacted by phone after the hearing, he declined to comment on the case except to note the substantial evidence involved.

James tearfully told Judge McDonald that he learned his lesson when he had spent nine years in prison for similar crimes. He said he was frustrated by the circumstances of being a convicted felon without many job opportunities and that he allowed that frustration to get the best of him.

He asked that he be given a sentence that would allow him to return to his three children and be a father to them.

"I done the very best Steve A. James can do," he said. "… But I failed and disappointed so many people, especially my children."

After learning his sentence, James was led immediately from the courtroom. He repeatedly said that he didn't deserve the sentence given to him.

"I don't deserve that," he said. "I don't deserve 15 years mandatory."

In addition to the 15 years James received for the recent incident, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for violating community control. Judge McDonald gave him credit for the nearly 3,500 days already served in those earlier cases.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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