YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Judges admit their positions often draw a great deal of respect, but they also know they can make a lot of enemies.
That fact became all too clear Monday when a man opened fire on a judge in Steubenville. The judge was hit but not before he and a parole officer returned fire, killing the suspect.
Mahoning County Judge Maureen Sweeney said she has heard defendants mention some unpleasant things about her in the past.
“You wonder when they are out on the streets if they are going to come after you or if their family is going to come after you,” Sweeney said.
The man who ambushed Jefferson County Judge Joseph Bruzzese had a wrongful death case before the court involving his mother. Authorities are also saying Nathaniel Richmond had been stopped for having a broken headlight just hours before he shot at the judge outside the Jefferson County Courthouse. The incident prompted the local sheriff to urge all judges be armed.
Mahoning County Judge R. Scott Krichbaum said he has received threats in the past and has a permit to carry a gun, as several other judges do. In the 1990s when Ed Nemeth was the sheriff in Mahoning County, judges were issued guns.
“We should carry guns. I don’t need somebody else to tell me that,” Krichbaum said. “We had firearms on the bench.”
Monday’s shooting got the attention of other judges and law enforcement around the state. Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene said his department has beefed up security around the courthouse, but judges believe the added precautions can only go so far.
“There is a certain part of the population that resents us, and that is the part that seems to be attacking,” Sweeney said.
Krichbaum said he is secure at the bench with an armed guard at the door, but that’s only in court. However, he said he will continue to have faith in the public’s respect for what he and his fellow jurists do.