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Court upholds 20 year sentence of man who dragged Sheri Jania to her death

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James Lohman II, the man who admitted dragging Shift Change bartender Sheri Jania to her death in 2011, may have said last summer, at his sentencing, that he deserves “whatever the judge gives me.”

But the 20-year aggregate sentence imposed by Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford must have surprised him anyway, because Lohman promptly appealed it, on the ground that it’s “inappropriate” given the nature of the crime and his own character.

That appeal the Indiana Court of Appeals rejected on Monday, in confirming Bradford’s sentence.

Lohman argued the following in his appeal:

* The elements and circumstances of the two crimes to which he pleaded--OWI-causing death and leaving the scene of an accident-causing death--“do not support the maximum punishment nor a designation of ‘the worst of the worst.’”

* His leaving the scene of the accident was “benign” and “no more egregious than any other offense.”

* And--despite Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris’ finding that Jania was alive and conscious for some part of her ordeal--Lohman contends this instead: “Jania was immediately dead. (His) failure to stop did not cause greater injury.”

The Court of Appeals easily rejected this part of Lohman’s appeal. “The nature of this crime was particularly gruesome and undeniably tragic,” the court stated in its decision. “Witnesses at the scene saw Lohman back his car purposely toward Jania, who he described as his friend. Although she was initially able to move out of the vehicle’s path, Lohman put the vehicle in drive, deliberately turned the car toward Jania, and accelerated quickly in her direction. He ran over Jania, pinning her underneath his vehicle. Lohman opened the door for a few seconds and witnesses in the parking lot shouted at him to stop. But he accelerated and drove out of the parking lot, dragging Jania because of her position underneath the car, leaving smeared blood on the ground. Jania was dragged out onto the highway and left in the roadway after her body dislodged from Lohman’s vehicle. Jania’s death has severely impacted her children and her youngest son testified that his family has fallen apart since his mother was killed.”

Although Lohman does not “focus much attention” in his appeal on his own character--which is supposed to make the 20-year sentence inappropriately harsh--he does note that he pleaded guilty, apologized for causing Jania’s death, and expressed remorse at the sentencing hearing.

The Court of Appeals, however, takes note of Lohman’s history of marijuana and alcohol abuse and his criminal history as well. “Despite his admitted history of alcohol abuse, on the day of the offense, Lohman drank three beers before arriving at the bar and shared a pitcher with friends,” the court stated. “And at sentencing, although he accepted responsibility for Jania’s death, he continued to blame the individuals who allegedly attacked him just prior to Jania’s death and maintains that he did not see Jania before striking her. His statement is less than credible in light of the eyewitnesses’ statements to police.”

The Court of Appeals concludes: “Lohman’s character is, at the very least, unhelpful to him in sentencing, and the nature of this offense was particularly horrific. For all of these reasons, we conclude that Lohman’s aggregate 20-year sentence is not inappropriate in light of the nature of the offense and the character of the offender.”

Lohman plowed into Jania on Sept. 3, 2011, in the parking lot of the Shift Change, in what former Burns Harbor town marshal Jerry Price said was “the most despicable, heartless act I’ve ever seen.”

 

Posted 4/1/2014

 
 

 

 

 

 

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