Man accused of copper theft admits crime

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A man arrested for trying to steal copper from the Keystone Coal Company admitted to his crime Wednesday in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court.

Joseph Wilson, 20, of 404 Township Road 301, Ironton, pleaded guilty to one count each of criminal trespass and possession of criminal tools. Judge Richard Walton sentenced Wilson to a total of four years community controlled sanctions under intensive supervised probation.

On April 16, a security guard at Keystone Coal on Dayton Lane in Ironton alerted police that a theft was in progress at that business. Ironton Police, with assistance from Coal Grove Police, Hanging Rock Police and Lawrence County Sheriff’s deputies, went to the business and chased Wilson and three other suspects from the scene. Wilson was apprehended a short time later. Authorities said the men were cutting cables that control the loading facility in an effort to get copper. Wilson reportedly told police at the time of his arrest he worked for Empire Metal Recycling in Huntington, W.Va. Empire executives said Wilson was not an employee; he was contract labor.

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“You did a stupid thing,” Walton told Wilson as he sentenced him.

Wilson still faces drug charges stemming from an arrest earlier this month.

In another case Wednesday, John D. Ratliff, 22, of 1486 County Road 21, Ironton, pleaded guilty to two counts of receiving stolen property and one count each of fleeing and eluding authorities and assault on a peace officer. Judge Charles Cooper sentenced him to a total of four years in prison and ordered him to pay restitution to his victims. He was given credit for time served in jail awaiting resolution of his case.

Ratliff was accused of having stolen items in his possession and trying to avoid capture by police on March 25. Ratliff also was accused of assaulting Lawrence County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Chaffins while he was in jail on those charges.