NORTH ROYALTON, Ohio — A North Royalton man convicted of brutally attacking and injuring a police officer back in 2019 could be a free man in the coming days after serving only nine months behind bars.
A Cuyahoga County judge granted John Pugnea’s release this week, despite years left in his sentence.
North Royalton police officer Alexandra Bell said the violent attack often plays on mental repeat, now a year and a half later.
“Believe me, I remember it like it was yesterday,” Bell said. “That was by far the worst and scariest moment of my life.”
Bell said she tried to carry out a routine traffic stop outside Pugnea’s home on Lynn Drive after both he and his vehicle matched the description of a person and car involved in a road rage incident earlier that day.
“As I got closer to him, I could immediately tell that he was intoxicated and he was argumentative with me,” Bell said.
The incident turned violent quickly when Pugnea shoved Bell to the ground, repeatedly punching her in the face and head and attempting to gouge her eyes out.
“He looked at me dead in the eyes and said, ‘I’m going to f*cking kill you, b****.’ My daughter, she was four years old. That was the only thing that I could think of,” Bell said. “Really when he was shoving his thumbs into my eye sockets, I really thought that I was going to die.”
So, after being sentenced to four years behind bars for menacing and felonious assault, why was Pugnea granted a release by Judge Daniel Gaul—less than a year into his sentence?
“I had not been notified that there was a hearing. I knew nothing about it at all. As far as I knew, he was just sitting in prison,” Bell said.
News 5 made multiple attempts Friday to speak with Gaul about why he granted the release, but did not hear back.
The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, however, filed a motion for reconsideration and sent News 5 the following statement:
“A judicial release hearing was held on this case on Tuesday in which the court granted the release of this inmate over our office’s objection. Our office has since filed a motion for reconsideration and has learned that the trial court has agreed to hold another hearing. The inmate will remain incarcerated until that hearing is held. This convicted felon brutally beat a police officer by punching her in the head multiple times and tried to gouge her eyes out while threatening to kill her. He should serve his entire sentence and not a day less.”
Pugnea will remain behind bars until that hearing at which time Officer Bell said she hopes the judge will hear her out and change his mind.
“That's the first part that's disappointing to me is how easily the victims were disregarded in this particular case,” Bell said. “My main goal is to try and get the judge to change his mind. I would like to know why he made the decision that he made.”
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