Suspect reveals COVID-19 infection in court

WARREN — A 27-year-old woman who was about to plead guilty to theft charges linked to shoplifting $1,700 of Legos from the Bazetta Walmart caused quite a stir in court Thursday — when she announced she has COVID-19.

Vanessa R. Serrano, of 1911 Manchester Road, Akron, appeared wearing a facemask for a change-of-plea hearing Thursday before Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Ronald J. Rice.

But when Rice was asking Serrano questions, the defendant answered in a low, raspy voice. The judge asked her to speak up, but Serrano answered she was doing the best she could because she has COVID-19.

Immediately, Rice canceled the plea hearing and ordered the defendant to leave the courthouse immediately.

Court officials promptly handed out hand sanitizer to anyone who touched court documents that Serrano had touched.

The judge had been advising her of the constitutional rights she would be waiving for pleading guilty to the fifth-degree theft charge.

Afterward, Rice said he couldn’t understand why Serrano would show up for the hearing with the virus, saying defendants usually try to find any excuse for getting their court appearance moved.

Sheriff deputies who run security at the courthouse said Serrano got the “green light” when she entered. There is a scanning device at the entrance door to the courthouse that measures body temperature.

Attorney Candace Garrett was substituting for Serrano’s attorney Thomas Zena at the hearing. When contacted after the hearing, Garrett said she had no comment.

Rice said he would not reschedule Serrano’s plea hearing until she gets medical clearance to come back to court.

Trumbull County 911 reports show that Serrano’s case is linked to a 5 p.m. Jan. 16 theft call at the Walmart on Millenium Boulevard in Bazetta where store security reported $1,700 worth of Lego toys were taken. Two women were taken into custody at the time, the report states.



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