Johnson Guilty Of Attempted Murder

A jury convicted Antonio “Smiley” Johnson of attempted murder and other charges Thursday for firing shots at two men in July.

Johnson, 23, of Steubenville will be back in a Jefferson County Common Pleas courtroom at 11 a.m. Monday for sentencing. Johnson also is scheduled to appear before Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. in the same courtroom Tuesday for the start of his next trial on a charge of escape for not reporting to his parole officer. A third trial on two drug trafficking charges is scheduled to start Feb. 19.

Jurors deliberated about three and one-half hours Thursday before returning with their verdict.

Johnson was found guilty of attempted murder and felonious assault. Each of those charges had specifications of Johnson committing the crimes while having a firearm, participating in a criminal gang and firing a gun from a motor vehicle. He also was found guilty of having a weapon as a convicted felon and of improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle.

According to testimony at trial, two women and three men were driving from the Labelle section of Steubenville to Pleasant Heights on July 2 and drove past Johnson’s vehicle on the Lawson Avenue bridge. Johnson turned his vehicle around and followed the other vehicle.

The vehicle with five occupants parked on Orchard Avenue, where two of the men got out. Johnson got out of his vehicle, pulled out an assault rifle and fired 17 shots at the men, according to Jefferson County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin. She said shots were returned by one person in the Hampton vehicle, with rounds striking the windshield of Johnson’s vehicle.

Hanlin’s office offered 12 years in prison to resolve all the cases if Johnson pleaded guilty. He rejected the plea offer and told Bruzzese he wanted to go to trial. Bruzzese told Hanlin and Johnson’s defense attorney, Steven Stickles, to attempt to work out a deal on the other two pending trials prior to sentencing Monday.

Hanlin said Johnson had gang tattoos on his body and also sent text messages that included gang language. She said two people in the car Johnson was shooting at were members of a rival gang in the city.

Stickles said Johnson maintains his innocence and will appeal the verdict. He declined any further comment because of the pending appeal.