Muskingum County Prosecutor
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, November 1, 2023
Zanesville man sentenced to 50 years after withdrawing plea
In July of this year, Jermaine Thorpe, 43, of Zanesville, appeared in the Muskingum County Common Pleas Court to plead guilty to numerous felonies from an Easter evening drive-by shooting. The Court accepted Thorpe’s plea and set the case for a sentencing hearing that would not occur.
Later that month, Thorpe requested to withdraw his plea. Withdrawing a plea is not typical, but whenever a request is made, the Court holds a hearing to discuss the concerns with the Defendant. Thorpe expressed frustrations with his case, and after cautioning him about the potential downsides of withdrawing his plea, Judge Mark Fleegle permitted Thorpe to withdraw his plea and obtain a new attorney.
The charges in the case arose from Thorpe’s decision to shoot at an SUV that he believed was occupied by a rival. The SUV was driving down Pine Street when Thorpe pulled up on Ohio Street. Moments later, Thorpe fired shots with a handgun, striking the SUV numerous times, as well as a nearby house.
The SUV was not occupied by Thorpe’s rival, but instead by three young women and a three-year-old child, all returning from Easter dinner. One of the bullets fired by Thorpe struck a cologne bottle inches away from where the child was seated.
The shooting was captured on video. Witnesses immediately identified Thorpe as the shooter. Thorpe’s car – covered in shell casings – was discovered by Zanesville Police Officer Bo Bollinger shortly thereafter. The casings in and on Thorpe’s car matched the casings at the scene.
Thorpe tried to claim he acted in self-defense.
In 2020, the Ohio Legislature changed Ohio’s laws regarding self-defense. The new law no longer requires that there be any actual evidence that a shooting victim was a threat or that a person firing a gun was in fear. Instead, the law now requires the prosecution to disprove all imaginable scenarios which might constitute self-defense.
Fortunately, video evidence in the case captured all the occupants who were in the victim’s motor vehicle, fully contradicting Thorpe’s self-defense claims.
Thorpe scheduled himself to plead guilty once again in mid-October, and once again backed out of his decision to take responsibility after speaking with family members.
On October 31, his case was set for trial.
The same day he pleaded guilty and was sentenced. Judge Fleegle reviewed Thorpe’s extensive and violent criminal record, the fact that he was on post-release control after serving 10 years for a major drug offense when he committed the offense and his demeanor. He sentenced Thorpe to eight years in prison for each count of felonious assault, involving each victim in the SUV, five years in prison for shooting into the fifth victim’s home, five years for the drive-by shooting specification, three years for using a firearm to commit the crime and ran all of those counts consecutively to one another, and consecutively to the remainder of Thorpe’s post-release control time. The sentence added up to 46, plus an indefinite term of four years, for a grand total of 50 years in prison.
“Thorpe’s behavior and reputation represent a sort of old school mentality in the Zanesville criminal scene,” Assistant Prosecutor John Litle, who handled the case, said. “The days of his freewheeling, handle-it-on-the-streets mindset are over, and this sentence emphasizes that fact. His behavior might be commonplace in major cities, but it is simply not going to be tolerated in this county. Judge Fleegle’s sentence represents the type of punishment expected by law-abiding, decent citizens in Muskingum County.”
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