Former HR officer gets three years in prison

Published 9:19 am Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Despite the best efforts of his attorney, a former Hanging Rock officer will spend the next three years in prison for pocketing traffic fines.

Ronald Blanton, 28, of 2400 Junior Furnace Powell Road, Franklin Furnace, was found guilty Oct. 12 of third-degree tampering with evidence and fifth-degree theft in office.

Before he was sentenced Tuesday, Blanton took the stand to tell his side of the story.

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“I made a big mistake,” Blanton said. “I became somebody I was not. I took an oath and I broke that oath.”

Blanton, along with another former Hanging Rock police officer, Thomas S. Trent Jr., 22, of Portsmouth, are accused of targeting out-of-town travelers and taking cash for tickets on the roadside, pocketing the money and not turning it in to the Village of Hanging Rock.

Among the drivers was a Baltimore, Ohio, woman who filed a complaint about the incident with the Baltimore Police Department, which then contacted the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office.

A six-month investigation by the sheriff’s office found that Blanton and Trent were allegedly involved in at least 10 such incidents.

During his testimony, Blanton admitted to having an alcohol abuse problem and said he had even been drinking at the time the Baltimore woman was pulled over and ticketed.

Blanton’s defense attorney, Richard Wolfson, told the court that a person like Blanton would not benefit from prison time, rather a program that is “more geared to be a continuation of what (Blanton) has learned,” and so he could “continue in the positive direction he has taken.”

Wolfson suggested Blanton serve a nine-month sentence in the SEPTA Correctional Facility in Nelsonville.

Assistant prosecuting attorney Bob Anderson disagreed with Wolfson, saying Blanton’s actions undermined the people’s confidence in law enforcement. He also argued that the impact of Blanton’s action do not only affect Blanton himself, but also future law enforcement officers.

“It is greater when more of a statement is made … than a lesser penalty,” Anderson said.

Along with the three-year prison sentence, Judge Charles Cooper sentenced Blanton to four years community-controlled sanctions, to be served at the same time.

Cooper also said he would consider sending Blanton to the SEPTA center after two years, depending on Blanton’s conduct in prison.

Blanton is going to appeal the court’s decision.