Woman sentenced for threatening prosecutor
STEUBENVILLE — A Steubenville woman will spend a year behind bars for threatening Jefferson County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin outside the county courthouse.
The incident involving Jami Anderson, 29, took place Sept. 13 — only about three weeks after a man ambushed and shot Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. outside the courthouse in August.
Anderson had pleaded guilty to intimidation of a public official, and retired Judge John Solovan sentenced her on Tuesday. The incident happened after a criminal hearing involving Anderson’s boyfriend.
Hanlin was walking toward her car, which was parked on Market Street, following a hearing in the courthouse involving Ajani N. Lawrence, 37, of Wintersville. Lawrence was deciding whether to go along with a plea agreement in a drug and gun case. Anderson was subpoenaed to testify in Lawrence’s trial.
Anderson began yelling threats at Hanlin, and Hanlin called 911 for a city police officer to respond. Anderson reportedly heard Hanlin calling for police and got into a vehicle. She then was arrested by police.
Hanlin gave a victim impact statement during Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, pointing out that the Bruzzese shooting was still fresh in everyone’s minds at the time. Hanlin said she was frightened by the encounter with Anderson, adding she had to inform her family of the incident.
“It had an impact on me and an impact on my family,” Hanlin said, adding public officials should feel safe leaving the courthouse.
Hanlin said Anderson could have been shot if a deputy had seen Anderson approaching Hanlin.
“It happened close to when Judge Bruzzese was shot and there was a level of fear and anxiety at the courthouse,” Hanlin said.
Defense attorney Steven Stickles it was a “tense and tumultuous” time in the county after the shooting of Bruzzese, resulting in a change in attitudes and policies.
“Public officials need to feel safe in their role. She acted in poor judgment, and I don’t believe she wanted to harm Ms. Hanlin,” Stickles said of Anderson.
Harrison County Prosecutor Owen Beetham was appointed special prosecutor in the case, and Solovan was assigned by the Ohio Supreme Court.
Solovan said the crime impacted Hanlin and her family and law enforcement throughout the county at a very sensitive time. He noted Anderson has a serious drug and alcohol problem.
The judge sentenced Anderson to serve up to six months in the county jail, followed by six months in the Eastern Ohio Correction Center. If she is released early, she will be on house arrest. Anderson will be on probation for four years and faces two and a half years in prison if she violates probation.
Solovan ordered Anderson not to have any contact with Hanlin. He also ordered Anderson to perform 240 hours of community service.
A second charge of retaliation was dismissed by Beetham.
Solovan said the severity of the sentence sends a message that such actions won’t be tolerated.
“Your threats were enhanced by the recent actions in Jefferson County,” the judge said.
Anderson told Hanlin, “I was under the influence and I apologize.”