By Shelley Grieshop
WAPAKONETA -- A 31-year-old Celina man was sentenced to six months in jail and given a 50-years driver's license suspension on Friday for fleeing from a sheriff's deputy during a high-speed pursuit in October.
Sam Schoch, 219 Livingston St., Celina, also was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine -- the maximum allowed by law -- during the hearing in Auglaize County Common Pleas Court.
He faced a maximum of five years in prison and a lifetime driver's license suspension for the third-degree felony.
Pepple took under advisement a request by Schoch for work release privileges. Schoch said co-workers could transport him back and forth to work in Celina so he could maintain employment.
The pursuit began about 12:30 a.m. October 14 after Schoch left his second-shift job. He picked up two 18-year-olds and a 17-year-old minor in St. Marys and apparently went cruising, the sheriff's report said. When an Auglaize County deputy tried to stop his car for speeding on County Road 33A, Schoch led him on a 10-mile chase at speeds clocked near 115 mph. The chase ended when the deputy's car went airborne, bottomed out and erupted in flames. Schoch continued on in his 2005 Subaru and was apprehended later that day by law enforcement officers. Neither the deputy or the occupants in Schoch's car claimed serious injuries from the incident.
During Friday's hearing, Pepple reviewed aloud Schoch's lengthy history of driving violations and convictions and was not pleased. He counted 20 speeding tickets and numerous other violations from local and out-of-state law agencies.
"Why shouldn't I send you to prison?" Pepple asked Schoch.
Schoch told the judge he wanted to keep his family together and get his life back.
"I know that I still have a great deal to do as for getting my life back on track," Schoch told the court.
A former U.S. Marine Reservist, Schoch said he is no longer welcome at the Marine Corp Center because of the recent felony conviction. He's also been humiliated in public and has lost respect from family, friends and co-workers since his arrest, he added.
Before sentencing, Pepple told Schoch he was contemplating sending him to prison instead of the local jail.
"If I don't send you to prison and you go 100 mph with a car full of teenagers and kill somebody, how am I going to live with myself?" Pepple asked, as Schoch sat quietly at the defense table.
Schoch's attorney, Robert Kehoe, introduced several pieces of evidence to claim his client has medical and psychological problems that are currently being evaluated by experts. He also submitted several letters of support for Schoch from his military supervisors who asked the court for leniency for the Iraqi war veteran.
"It just seems a lit bit odd as to why this person (Schoch) would do such a thing," Kehoe told the judge.
Kehoe reminded the judge that Schoch was dubbed an "outstanding" Marine and asked him to keep that in mind during sentencing. Perhaps Schoch was just looking for a little "excitement" after coming back from service in Iraq, Kehoe said.
Pepple said he was concerned with Schoch's apparent need to drive recklessly.
"I think you have a real problem with speed," Pepple told Schoch.
As part of his future probation conditions, Pepple prohibited Schoch from attending any motorized racing event, ordered him not to socialize with anyone under 21 years of age, obtain and maintain mental health counseling and psychological treatment and pay the fine within three years.
Violating conditions of bond could land Schoch in prison for a maximum of four years.
Following sentencing, Pepple offered these last words of advice: "Mr. Schoch, I think it's time you grow up... . You're not an 18-year-old kid anymore. You have to get your priorities straight. You don't know how close you came to prison."