By Rick Armon
Beacon Journal staff writer
An Akron man charged in the April shooting death of a McDonald’s worker rejected a plea deal at the last minute Friday, opting to take his case to trial instead.
Johnnl Lanier Lewis, 21, appeared before Summit County Common Pleas Judge Alison McCarty to plead guilty to aggravated murder and be sentenced to 26 years to life in prison under an agreement reached with prosecutors.
But Lewis balked in court and told the judge that he didn’t feel like he had enough time to go over the deal. McCarty then allowed him to leave the courtroom and discuss it more with his attorneys.
After about an hour, he reappeared in court and rejected the agreement. He offered no explanation why and defense attorneys declined to comment afterward.
His trial will go forward Oct. 23.
Lewis is charged with killing John Lehman, 28, on April 6 outside the McDonald’s restaurant at 390 W. Market St. in Akron.
Authorities say Lehman was taking out the garbage when he was shot by an armed robber.
Lewis later admitted to the shooting, according to police.
Lewis’ last-minute decision disappointed Lehman’s family, many of whom had come from around Ohio to attend the sentencing.
“It was just a shock,” said his father John Lehman. “It was really shocking to all of us. A real, real, big letdown.
“With the situation the way it is, he should have taken the offer is the way the family feels,” he added. “It was more than generous.”
John Lehman said he believes his son is a hero and was protecting other workers and customers in the fast-food restaurant the night of the shooting.
He said he would like to see Lewis get the maximum penalty allowed.
His son was well known in the Highland Square neighborhood where he lived. Friends described him as a gentle, generous soul. A music buff, he would often play his guitar and sing songs while walking in the neighborhood.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.