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Akron assault suspect has long criminal history

Posted at 6:16 AM, Dec 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-16 06:16:02-05

An Akron woman accused of striking a Tallmadge police officer with her car and leading police on a chase Saturday evening had seven prior felony convictions and more than 50 misdemeanor criminal filings, records show. 

On Monday, Yolanda DeBruce, 47, was arraigned in Stow Municipal Court. She was charged with felonious assault, failing to comply with police, and resisting arrest. She was given a $750,000 bond. 

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Tallmadge police told newsnet5.com an officer approached DeBruce on suspicion of shoplifting at the Giant Eagle Grocery store on West Avenue. 

Police said Debruce struck the officer with her car as she tried to escape. The officer fired one round, striking the driver's side door but not DeBruce.

Other responding officers chased DeBruce into Akron and arrested her. The officer was treated and released at an area hospital. 

A background check reveals 68 criminal filings on DeBruce’s record. They include two recent shoplifting convictions from the summer. 

Court records show seven prior felony convictions and an assortment of nearly 50 misdemeanor charges for drugs, prostitution, theft and forgery. 

Law experts tell newsnet5.com that despite the thick case file, misdemeanor drug charges don’t compound the same way felonies do. 

Court records show Debruce had been sentenced to prison at least 6 times, but misdemeanors carry a maximum penalty of 180 days for most cases. 

“It’s never going to be that serious of a sentence,” said Jonathan Witmer-Rich, Associate Professor at Cleveland Marshall College of Law. "You're never going to do that much time, even if you have a very long history of misdemeanors.” 

Witmer-Rich said that DeBruce’s case points out the question of how the legal system should handle people with drug addiction who consistently commit minor criminal offenses. 

“Drug treatment isn't 100 percent effective and obviously this case is an example of that,” he said. 

Summit County's Probation Office could not comment on DeBruce's prior participation in drug treatment programs. A spokesman said she would have likely entered into a program after her fifth or sixth conviction. 

Former Cleveland Judge Ken Callahan also reviewed DeBruce’s criminal history for newsnet5.com.

Callahan said that judges often prefer probation programs to jail time when it comes to misdemeanor offenses, even when there are dozens of misdemeanor offenses, as in DeBruce's case. 

“There are people who are career offenders and the law does not allow for a compounding of offenses,” Callahan said. 

He noted that jail overcrowding also keeps judges from imposing long prison sentences to lifetime misdemeanor offenders. 

DeBruce's next hearing is scheduled for Dec. 22 at 10:30 a.m. 

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