Saturday, July 28th, 2018
Driver who fled police gets 54-month sentence
By Ed Gebert
WAPAKONETA - A Phillipsburg man who in April led police on a 22-minute pursuit through western Auglaize and southeastern Mercer County was sentenced on Friday to 54 months in prison.
Christopher W. Thornton, 39, was sentenced in Auglaize County Common Pleas Court on one fourth-degree felony count of theft of a motor vehicle, one third-degree felony count of fleeing and eluding and a first-degree misdemeanor count of child endangering. Thornton pleaded guilty to the charges on June 6.
Auglaize County Prosecutor Edwin A. Pierce asked the court for the maximum sentence, noting prison time for the two felonies must be served consecutively while prison for the misdemeanor charge must be served concurrently with the felonies, according to state law.
Defense attorney Gerald D. Siesel instead asked for mercy for his client and presented seven letters from Thornton's family, friends and co-workers, which cited Thornton's good character. Thornton said at the hearing that his ex-girlfriend had moved into his house, and he soon afterward became hooked on methamphetamine. According to statements read in court, Thornton was under the influence of meth at the time of the incident.
Thornton also said he had believed he was being followed by drug dealers who wanted to hurt him on April 19, when he decided to take a vehicle from Phil's One Stop Marathon in St. Marys. He said he had planned to take one car, but his 9-year-old daughter objected and drew his attention to a Jeep, which he said he took after placing his daughter in the front seat.
He drove south from the station without turning on the headlights, traveling many back roads in Auglaize County, according to court records. He reportedly was pursued by numerous police vehicles through Auglaize County and into Mercer County before the pursuit ended in the 1100 block of Goettemoeller Road, southwest of Maria Stein.
Judge Frederick Pepple noted that Thornton's adult criminal record spanned from 1998-2013, covering four and one-half pages, and noted that Thornton had been ordered to go through anger-management classes.
"This is a guy who steals a Jeep, drives without the lights on, says that these people were chasing him, but even after it's extremely clear that he's dealing with police officers, (he still doesn't stop). Instead, you continue to fight the cops, even when you're in the Auglaize County Correctional Center, which makes your story not believable," Pepple said.
In addition to time in prison, Thornton's sentence includes a mandatory driver's license suspension for three years, $4,907 in restitution to two police agencies for damages incurred by their cars during the pursuit and post-release control of up to three years.
Pepple cautioned Thornton to behave himself while in prison, noting, "You don't exactly have a great history with controlling your temper."