Rodeo operator pleads in fireworks case

WARREN – Instead of a trial Monday, a 67-year-old rodeo showman pleaded no contest to a first-degree misdemeanor charge of illegally detonating fireworks.

Common Pleas Judge Andrew Logan found James N. McElroy, of Ripley, Ohio, guilty of the charge, fining him $1,000 and placing him on two years of probation.

McElroy was scheduled to be tried on a fourth-degree felony version of a similar charge that could have meant up to 18 months behind bars.

Trumbull County Sheriff’s deputies said the fireworks set off by McElroy at last summer’s county fair spooked a horse that threw a mounted deputy sheriff from his saddle, injuring him in front of fans watching the rodeo.

Defense attorney Sam Bluedorn, who represented McElroy, owner of the Broken Horn Rodeo show, had filed a motion to limit the jurors from hearing testimony that the deputy was injured.

Bluedorn said the injuries to the deputy had nothing to do with the fireworks charge.

McElroy was indicted in February on a charge of prohibitions concerning exhibitors and fireworks incident sites.

Deputy Allen F. Smith of Orangeville has since recovered from three bruised ribs, a punctured lung and a broken shoulder suffered after his horse threw him in the infield area of the grandstands area during the July 6 show.

He required surgery and still feels effects of the fall, according to deputies.

Sgt. Rick Tackett, with the sheriff’s office, charged McElroy with not having a license to set off fireworks.

Tackett’s report also states that fair board Director Bud Rodgers and Bazetta fire Chief Dennis Lewis each told McElroy not to shoot off the fireworks and were led to believe fireworks wouldn’t be used at the show.