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Former Liberty firefighter pleads in drug case

Faced felony charges after overdose death of co-worker

WARREN — A former Liberty firefighter will be sentenced later after pleading guilty Thursday to charges connected to the April 2020 overdose death of a fellow firefighter.

Joshua Cleland, 43, pleaded guilty in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court to amended charges of attempted possession of drugs with a forfeiture specification and attempted tampering with evidence. He originally faced felony charges of aggravated possession of drugs and tampering with evidence. Cleland also was charged with a misdemeanor drug-possession charge.

Cleland was arrested on drug-related charges after the overdose death of Liberty firefighter / paramedic John Beard in 2020. An investigation then began into possible drug use and drug trading inside the Liberty Fire Department.

Cleland, who was a lieutenant, and two other ranked firefighters, Lt. Justin Graham and Capt. Chris Olson, were forced out of the department following an investigation that arose after the April 12, 2020, death of Beard. Beard died from an accidental drug overdose, a coroner ruled.

In March 2021, an arbitrator ruled in favor of Liberty firefighter Cathy Macchione, who had been demoted during the investigation, reinstating her to her prior rank as captain inspector.

The probe also led agents with the Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force to raid Cleland’s Warner Road home.

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