Man gets 4-6 years for attack

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 13, 2021

A Waterloo man found guilty on three charges from an assault in January was sentenced to four–six years in prison on Wednesday morning.

Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Andrew Ballard oversaw the trial and the sentencing of James V. Newcomb after an incident that put one man in the hospital and another in a ditch.

Newcomb was indicted in March on four counts, including two counts of second-degree felony assault, one count of third-degree felony tampering with evidence and one count of fifth-degree felony theft.

On Nov. 5, Newcomb had a jury trial and was found guilty of three counts — first-degree misdemeanor assault, second-degree felony assault and fifth-degree felony theft.

The case began after two members of SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness), an anti-animal cruelty group that tapes incidents of animal abuse, were at Newcomb’s property using a drone to take video of alleged cockfighting taking place at the property in January.

Newcomb confronted Steve Hindi, the president of SHARK, who was running the drone. Newcomb hit Hindi in the head with the drone controller. Newcomb and Shannon Clark then assaulted Hindi, but not before Hindi told another SHARK member, Adam Fahnestock, to take off.

After the assault on Hindi, Newcomb pursued Fahnestock and rammed his vehicle six times with his truck. Fahnestock’s rental vehicle was hit hard enough he lost control and went across a lane of oncoming traffic and crashed into a ditch.

Clark, 35, Waterloo, was indicted for one count of second-degree felony assault, one count of fifth-degree felony theft and one count of third-degree felony tampering with evidence in an attack on Hindi. His case is set for Nov. 29-30.

Before sentencing, Judge Ballard heard victim impact statements from the two men who were assaulted.

Fahnestock spoke over the telephone and said he would “never forget, no matter how hard I try.”

He recalled that, as he sat in his car, Newcomb stormed through his property gates and attacked Hindi with the drone controller before charging over to the car where Fahnestock was filming and began pounding on the window. He said he left after Hindi told him to. He said a half hour later, he became extremely apprehensive after he spotted Newcomb following him in a tan truck.

“After pursuing me for a few miles, you began ramming me from behind, hard, on that foggy, rainy day,” Fahnestock said. “It was not once or twice, it was six times. This absolutely terrified me. I’ve never been more scared in my life.”

He said after the sixth hit, he went into a ditch and expected to be injured or killed and mentally said goodbye to his loved ones “because I was afraid you were going to come back and finish the job.”

Fahnestock said he has gone to a chiropractor because his back was out of alignment and has costs of $14,000 from the collision Newcomb caused.

Hindi was in court and said his experience was both painful and expensive.

After the attack by Newcomb and Clark, Hindi was taken to St. Mary’s emergency room, where he had staples put in his head for a large laceration. He also had broken ribs.

He said most of his injuries came from Clark, but Newcomb “had his share of hits, kicks and stomps. And I do not believe Clark would have ever done what he did if James Newcomb hadn’t instigated it.”

He said after he left the property the two men “drove a vehicle to find me and work me over some more” and then pursued Fahnestock “in an act of cowardice that could have killed him.”

He said that Newcomb hadn’t shown remorse or even admitted to the crimes. Hindi said that Newcomb lied to an investigator and didn’t correct anything during his trial.

Newcomb, on the advice of his lawyer, didn’t testify during his trial. He was also advised by his lawyer not to speak during his sentencing, but did say “I didn’t do it” in open court when the judge asked him if he had anything to say before sentence was handed down.

Three people did stand up to say that Newcomb was a good man and helped out his neighbors in ways such as giving them auto parts to fix their vehicles and helping others in need.

After members of the public spoke, Ballard moved on to the sentencing.

Lawrence County assistant prosecutor Steve Nord recommended that Newcomb get five to seven and half years in prison for the assault since it involved the use of the truck as a deadly weapon, 12 months for the theft of Hindi’s equipment and 180 days in jail for the misdemeanor assault.

Ballard said that Newcomb not taking the stand during the trial was his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and would not be held against him as one of the sentencing factors.

Jonathan Tyack, of the Tyack Law Firm of Columbus, represented Newcomb.

He asked for leniency for Newcomb arguing that although Ohio law leans towards prison time, in this case, home confinement would be more fitting.

He said that a similar crime was not likely to happen again and his previous criminal charges were all minor and non-violent and he did not have a juvenile case.

“This was an isolated incident. This was a situation where Mr. Newcomb was confronted on his property by these folks and arguably, he did not handle it very well,” Tyack said. “But these circumstances aren’t likely to reoccur.”

He said Newcomb is on disability and takes care of his grandchildren while the family is at work and that being on probation and house arrest would be more appropriate than being in prison.

Ballard said he reviewed the sentencing factors and disagreed with Tyack.

He said that whatever situation that arose on the property that could have fallen into incitement or provocation that would have factored into a less severe sentence ended when the activists left the property but it continued miles down the road.

Ballard said something that he and the jury keyed into when watching the video of the car crash was “all the other citizens that were driving cars that day on a heavily congested road that could have had anybody’s child in that car” and Newcomb’s actions put all those people in danger.

Ballard said the jury found that Newcomb was guilty of that and the court has to honor that decision when it comes to sentencing.

In the end, Newcomb was sentenced to 180 days in the Lawrence County Jail for the first-degree misdemeanor assault, a minimum sentence of four years, but up to six years, in prison and a $5,000 fine for the second-degree felony assault, and 12 months in prison for the second-degree felony assault.

All the sentences will run at the same time for a total time of four to six years. He was also sentenced to probation for a period of 18 months to three years after he is released.