On Thursday, a jury of 10 men and two women convened in Judge Mark Fleegle's courtroom to hear the case of Joseph Roth.

Ron Welch
Muskingum County Prosecutor


Friday, January 27, 2023

Zanesville parolee convicted, sentenced to prison for new felony

On Thursday, a jury of 10 men and two women convened in Judge Mark Fleegle’s courtroom to hear the case of Joseph Roth.

Roth was charged with the crime of unauthorized use of a motorcycle vehicle, which occurs when a person who at one time had permission to use a vehicle retains or uses the vehicle after the permission to use it has been revoked.

Jurors heard from four witnesses, including Muskingum County deputies Brice Swiney and Jason Harmon, in addition to the victim and Roth himself.

While the victim attempted to minimize the defendant’s actions to the jury, the jurors also had access to the complete record of communications between the victim and Roth. In the messages, Roth’s victim and his friend for more than fifteen years repeated the victim’s demand for Roth to return her vehicle more than 20 times to no avail.

After Roth chose to testify, jurors learned that he had just been released from prison for a 2013 armed robbery.

Muskingum County jurors took their job seriously in a case where it would have been easy to throw their hands in the air and ask the question, “if the victim doesn’t care, why should I?”

Assistant Prosecutor John Litle, who handled the case, answered that question in his closing argument when he explained that prosecutions in Ohio are brought by the state, not by the victim, and there are many factors important to that decision. Among the factors are the other persons who are affected by crime and the moral hazard that exists when a person who commits a crime is allowed to negotiate its resolution on the streets. Jurors heard some aspects of that hazard when they considered the efforts made by Roth’s ex-wife to contact and influence the victim.

In the end, the jury deliberated for more than 90 minutes before returning a verdict of guilty.

Judge Fleegle proceeded immediately to sentencing, sending Roth to prison for one year on the offense of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and imposing the remaining term of Roth’s post-release control for the previous armed robbery. The total sentence amounted to just under five years in prison.

“In this case, the victim didn’t want to come to court for personal reasons unrelated to the case. Unfortunately, Joey Roth knew of her desire not to come to court, and he attempted to use that situation to his advantage,” Assistant Prosecutor Litle said. “In Muskingum County, the popular street defense of ‘no face, no case’ is not a real thing, and Mr. Roth made a major miscalculation imagining that he could leverage that tactic into his escaping responsibility for his crime. Obviously, the previous eight-year sentence he served wasn’t quite enough to get the point across that this is the wrong county for criminal nonsense. Hopefully bumping that number up to 13 will register a change in behavior.”

During his time on post-release control ‘supervision’ by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, Roth, by his own admission, failed to report as required, failed to live in the appropriate county as required, failed to maintain an address, associated with felons, and as found by the jury, committed additional felonies. As a consequence, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections - who chose to release Roth early from his previous sentence - produced the suggestion that he serve a period of time in a halfway house.

After this verdict, ODRC will be offered an additional opportunity to adequately punish and rehabilitate Roth. It will remain to be seen whether they will choose to attempt to change Roth’s behavior and incapacitate him, or if they will find the earliest opportunity to release him back to the streets as they did in his last case.

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Zanesville parolee convicted, sentenced to prison for new felony