Cuyahoga County

Little Italy robbers who pistol whipped priest all get prison sentences


CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Three men who pistol whipped a priest and robbed three others in Cleveland's Little Italy neighborhood were sentenced to prison Thursday.

Da'Shaun Newton, 19, and Johnchez Phillips, 20, were sentenced to 22 years in prison. 20-year-old David Harrison was sentenced to 16 years.

The men tried to rob three people Dec. 5 after they struck a 61-year-old priest in the head with their guns as he walked to his car in the parking lot of the Holy Rosary Church on Mayfield Road.

All three men pleaded guilty to four counts of robbery, two of which included mandatory three-year prison sentences for using a gun, and three counts of abduction.

It was already nightfall on Dec. 5 when the three armed men arrived at the Little Italy RTA Rapid Station. They searched for victims up Mayfield Road, where they found Father Bernard McAniff getting in his car.

They approached McAniff with four guns -- three pistols and a shotgun -- but the priest refused to hand over his car keys.

"I told them I was a priest, which didn't seem to faze them," McAniff said during Thursday's hearing.

The three men battered him with the butts of their guns as he clenched his fist around the car keys. Phillips prodded him in the face with a long gun.

The priest told the judge that the men then stepped back "in an execution style firing squad" when another man, Justin Beukemann, heard him scream.

Beukemann also started screaming. The three men then peeled off the priest and pushed him to the ground and rifled through his pockets. They came away with nothing.

Unsatisfied, the three men continued to terrorize residents in Little Italy that night. They found a Case Western Reserve law student, Karishma Goel, who was walking home from class.

The three men jumped Goel from behind. In court Thursday, the young woman described feeling a cold gun barrel against her head.

"They had rendered me unable to move," she said. "I cried for my life."

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