Watkins tells of career criminal
Prosecutor opposes parole on rap sheet dating to July 1973
WARREN — Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins has written many letters opposing parole during his long career, but he’d never before written one about a prison inmate from Warren who began his criminal career about the same time Watkins entered the prosecutor’s office as a young lawyer.
The prosecutor, who is in his 10th term of office, is now saying Amos Hughley — who had his first documented arrest at age 18 on July 7, 1973 — has had way too many chances.
The Ohio Parole Board, however, has scheduled a hearing for Hughley sometime in July outside his cell at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center off Hubbard Road in Youngstown.
Hughley, 67, is serving time for convictions of various crimes over the last five decades, some of which were committed after he was let out of prison on parole. He has been convicted of voluntary manslaughter, 12 counts of aggravated robbery with gun specifications, one count of felonious assault with another gun specification and one count of aggravated robbery with gun specification and repeat violent offender specification, five counts of kidnapping with gun and repeat violent offender specifications, and one count of having a firearm under disability.
Watkins wrote that he didn’t take mathematics in college so he thinks Hughley’s sentence maxes out at something like 140 years. “… But whatever way you do the math in Hughley’s case it shouldn’t matter, for he has a boatload of time remaining for his sociopathic endeavors and convictions,” Watkins wrote the Ohio Parole Authority.
In a 17-page letter, Watkins strongly urges the state board not to give Hughley his freedom. He gives many reason why simply by going over Hughley’s long rap sheet. After that first brush with the law, Warren police records show additional arrests in Warren because Hughley was charged with various misdemeanors including assaults and thefts committed in the years between 1973 and 1978.
“From that point on nothing got in his way to stop him from committing more crime, and God only knows how many times people tried to help him or stop him from doing more,” Watkins writes.
His first jail sentence was for six months after he pleaded guilty before Judge David McLain in 1975 on charges of receiving stolen property.
In November 1978, Hughley was indicted for the murder of Ernest Hargrave, who was shot with a 20-gauge shotgun. When Hughley was arrested in Niles, police officers found him with two loaded 20-gauge shotguns and he told officers: “I shot the (expletive) and I hope he dies.” His first taste of prison came with the voluntary manslaughter conviction and a 4- to 24-year prison sentence handed down by Judge Donald Ford.
After being denied early release by Ford, Hughley was freed on parole. On May 12, 1983, Hughley and an accomplice entered TJ’s Lounge on High Street in Warren, not far from the courthouse where 20 customers “were enjoying a quiet evening,” Watkins writes.
Hughley and his accomplice, both with guns, announced their intentions to rob the bar and its customers. According to witnesses, Hughley proclaimed, “My name’s Iceberg. I’m from Cincinnati and I rob (expletive) from down there and I’m up here to rob you (racial slur and expletives).
Seven days later, Hughley and his accomplice entered another liquor establishment, the Chateau Lounge in Warren, while 20 to 30 customers were there. This time, the two entered the bar firing shots and yelling to the bartender and his customers to leave all the money on the bar.
As the bartender was attempting to reach for a gun, Hughley fired a shot, striking a customer causing him to bleed profusely, Watkins wrote. “Thankfully this customer survived,” Watkins said.
At trial, Hughley was convicted by a jury and Judge Mitchell Shaker on Nov. 22, 1983, sentenced him to 39 years on gun specifications alone and 33 years to 115 years in prison for the crimes.
An appeals court affirmed the convictions, but reversed part of his sentence, limiting it to only two 3-year gun specifications for each bar robbery. Watkins said he still disagrees with that decision.
That move limited Hughley’s minimum prison term to 21 years.
While in prison from 1983 to 1993, Watkins said, Hughley eventually found himself transferred to Trumbull Correctional Institution close to home. Watkins noted this may have been a sign of a pending release and made more family visits possible. But Watkins said, with all these positive signs, Hughley would not stop his “bad ways.”
On June 7, 1993, prison officials at TCI called the Ohio State Highway Patrol to help them investigate a stabbing at the Warren prison.
“It turns out that inmate Hughley apparently was busy and creative in prison and made or obtained a makeshift knife,” Watkins wrote.
Fellow inmate Kevin Adams was on the receiving end of Hughley’s shank, getting it in the hand. When a correction officer intervened, Hughley became more angry and he attacked officer John DeFalco. According to Watkins, after stabbing the inmate, Hughley turned to the guard and said, “Now, I want you.”
Hughley again returned to Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. On Aug. 17, 1993, he pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated assault and was sentenced by Shaker to three years in prison, a term that was added to his long sentence.
“At this time, Hughley, not yet 40 years of age, goes back to prison in Ohio to serve three different prison sentences for using three different types of weapons to harm people — shotgun, handgun and a knife,” Watkins wrote.
Less than 10 years later, on March 22, 2002, Hughley once again is paroled.
“Does anything stop him from committing more crime and harm to others?” Watkins rhetorically asks in his letter.
Watkins in past letters to the parole board talked about a “learned remorse syndrome. For Hughley’s condition I could … coin a new phrase — Chronic Crime Syndrome,” he wrote.
With new-found freedom, Watkins said it took fewer than six months for Hughley to pull off a solo armed robbery of the First Place Bank on Mahoning Avenue NW in Warren on Sept. 11, 2002. He had a firearm and approached a teller window, pointed the gun over the window, gave the woman a white plastic bag and demanded all the money. He told the teller to hurry and if she gave him any dye packs, he would kill her. He was given about $9,000. Hughley then waved the gun at the other bank workers, telling them all to get down. He fled the bank in a white Cadillac, eventually crashing it on North River Road. A state trooper who was in pursuit went into the wrecked Cadillac and snatched the small black semi-automatic pistol from the lap of Hughley, who was trapped inside.
Hughley was seriously injured and taken to Cleveland Metro Hospital, where he confessed to committing the bank robbery.
In court on Jan. 30, 2003, Hughley pleaded guilty to all eight counts: aggravated robbery with firearm and repeat violent offender specifications, felonious assault with specifications, five counts of kidnapping — for making the bank employees get down on the floor — and having weapons under disability. Another Trumbull County judge, John M. Stuard, sentenced him to 20 years.
So it was back to prison for Hughley — with a third inmate number — meaning he still is serving three separate stacks of sentences accumulated over the last 44 years.
Watkins is amazed that the notification from the parole board shows that this is his first hearing under number A442547.
But in his letter, Watkins reminded the board that his sentencing under previous inmate numbers still have never been fully served or ended because he always has violated parole and been returned to prison.
“This man should never be released!” Watkins wrote the board. “To contemplate his release under the circumstances we know to be true is nuts.”
Laura E. Austen, deputy director of policy and outreach with the office of Ohio Public Defender, said it is her office’s policy not to comment on the prospects of an inmate’s parole hearing.