WARREN - A Niles man told a judge Monday that he shouldn't really be punished that harshly for being an alcoholic - even though he stole a car with a child sleeping in the back seat.
Blaming it mostly on ''the booze,'' Ross A. Francis, 43, and his attorney were seeking probation until Judge Peter Kontos decided that eight years in prison would be more appropriate. Francis initially apologized and said he ''blacked out'' and had no idea the child was in the car.
''Voluntary intoxication is not any kind of defense for this. I have a child about the same age,'' said assistant county prosecutor Gabe Wildman. ''He got out of Trumbull County Jail that same day, got drunk and took the car.''
Francis, 162 Robbins Ave., and who has remained in the jail in lieu of $150,000 bond since his arrest last fall, pleaded guilty March 18 to charges of kidnapping and grand theft of a motor vehicle.
He was accused of stealing a 2007 silver Chevrolet Impala on Oct. 11 that was parked in the driveway at 512 John St., Niles. The car's owner, Michael Babuka Jr., had parked about 11 p.m. at the residence and left his son, Michael Babuka III, 3, inside the car while he went inside.
Moments later, Babuka headed back out of the house and saw the car driving away.
He called Niles police, who sent out an Amber Alert for the boy. A dozen law enforcement agencies across Trumbull and Mahoning counties helped in the search.
''No one is to blame for this crime but yourself. Our family will not accept your apology. Having a car for hours and there is no way you didn't know there was a child in the back seat,'' Wildman said while reading an impact statement drafted by the Babuka family.
Francis was found after Warren police Officer Ben Harrell saw the alert on his Facebook page about 4 a.m. Harrell drove to Warren Township to look for the car, and was driving back to Warren when he noticed an older silver Chevrolet Impala with duct tape on the rear bumper, which matched the description of the stolen car.
Harrell followed the vehicle to 4424 Tod Ave. and blocked it in the driveway about 5:30 a.m.
The boy was not harmed.
Francis served prison time for a burglary conviction in 2000 - the same year he was convicted in Girard on drunken driving charges.