Ziegler: No more reports to court

WARREN – A man who was associated with the shuttered Sunset Lounge, and whose felony conviction and probation stint left the door open for city officials to label the business a nuisance, now wants his five-year probation period terminated after less than three years.

An attorney for LaShawn Ziegler filed the motion Friday afternoon, asking a judge to halt the periodic reporting to a probation officer because it would be ”ridiculously cumbersome and awkward” since Ziegler has become an over-the-road truck driver.

Ziegler’s attorney furnished Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge W. Wyatt McKay with his client’s commercial driver’s license obtained last month. Attorney Dennis DiMartino said it is unrealistic to file motions with the court every time Ziegler has to leave the state to haul a load to points in the Midwest.

The motion also states that Ziegler has paid his full restitution and performed the required 200 hours of community service. He has not had any other problems with the probation that was transferred to Cuyahoga County in July.

Ziegler, 40, said at the time he was moving to Bedford even though the CDL still shows a Solar Drive N.W. address in Warren.

Assistant county prosecutor Chris Becker strongly opposed the motion to terminate probation, reminding the court that Ziegler was convicted of nine felony violations and was given a suspended three-year prison sentence.

”It should be noted that the defendant has had a hand in the operation of some of the most notorious, nasty and crime-infested liquor establishments in the City of Warren,” Becker states in his motion.

”There are certainly ways in which the defendant could be permitted to leave the state in order to work in his new-found career. If the defendant believes this is too ‘cumbersome,’ the state would suggest that the defendant could spend the next three years in prison and not have to worry about the burden of reporting his location,” Becker states.

McKay did not say when he would render his decision.

Ziegler was sentenced to five years’ probation in April 2010 after pleading guilty to different counts of receiving stolen property, tampering with records, falsification, marijuana possession and marijuana trafficking.

He previously ran two controversial taverns, both of which were shut down by the city. His nightclub 77 Soul on Youngstown Road was closed for building violations.

Later, Ziegler ran Benji Brown’s Bar and Grill on North Park Avenue, which was raided in April 2008 and found to be operating with no liquor permit.

More recently, he was associated with the Sunset, where 25-year-old Cory Blackwell was shot to death early New Year’s Day inside the building during a party, and within a block of another murder in November.

Police reported more than 20 services calls at the bar during a four-month period, and state investigators said Ziegler was associated with the operation, which would violate his probation, investigators said.

And Becker outlines 77 Soul that was closed in 2004, calling it ”a den of violent criminal activity,” that included shootings and stabbings. He said ”even seedier and more violent” was Benji Brown’s, where a man was murdered in July 2007.

The owner of the Sunset building at 480 E. Market St. closed that bar in early January after coming to an agreement with the city that he would close the bar, take down the sign for it and disassociate the business with Ziegler.

State investigators said they found documents that indicate Ziegler, a convicted felon, had “hidden ownership” of the bar and helped in its operation. Terms of his probation prohibit him from entering liquor establishments.

A liquor hearing is scheduled for Feb. 7 after Warren City Council in August objected to the renewal of the liquor license due to numerous complaints by area area residents about the Sunset’s operation.