OH: Attacker Sentenced to 6 Years for Incidents on COTA Buses

Feb. 13--A 21-year-old Near East Side man who assaulted an elderly man on a COTA bus while trying to steal his cellphone was sentenced yesterday to six years in prison.

Montrell T. Rocker of 1442 Atcheson St. pleaded guilty to three counts of robbery for incidents on two COTA buses last year.

The sentence, imposed by Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Laurel Beatty, was recommended by the prosecution and defense as part of a plea agreement.

In the more-serious incident, Rocker punched 71-year-old Donald Leonard in the face in an unsuccessful effort to take Leonard's cellphone as the Central Ohio Transit Authority bus was traveling south on N. High Street near E. 5th Avenue on April 22, Assistant Prosecutor William Walton said.

The assault was captured on surveillance video, and Rocker was recognized by his probation officer. He had recently completed probation for attempting to carry a concealed weapon.

Rocker also admitted to snatching cellphones from the hands of two women on a bus as it made a stop on E. 5th Avenue on March 20. The women were not assaulted.

Beatty ordered Rocker to pay the women a combined $1,200 in restitution to cover the cost of their phones.

Rocker apologized before he was sentenced.

"I just want to say how truly sorry I am for assaulting that elderly man," he said. "It was not my intention to take such a low-down action."

Walton said Leonard, who did not attend the hearing, wanted the court to know that "he felt sorry for the defendant and wishes him well."

Defense attorney George Breitmayer said his client "suffers from a myriad of mental-health issues," but a psychological evaluation found that he was competent to stand trial.

jfutty@dispatch.com

Copyright 2014 - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio

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