Roberts Sentenced In Theft Cases

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A Glouster man facing charges in the death of his father was sentenced to more than a year in prison on other offenses Tuesday in Athens County Common Pleas Court.

Paul J. Roberts, 40, of Glouster, appeared in court for a sentencing hearing on four separate cases, three of which involve the man he is now accused of killing.

Judge L. Alan Goldsberry sentenced Roberts to 18 months in prison for cases from 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013. The charges included two counts of identity fraud, one forgery count, along with counts of grand theft, theft and aggravated possession of drugs. He was charged with stealing property from his father, including a refrigerator, washer, dryer, a Harley Davidson motorcycle and a flat-screen television.

Roberts had already accepted a plea deal for the offenses, but was then charged with murder and related offenses in the death of his father, Paul E. Roberts.

The younger Roberts was indicted for murder in October for allegedly killing his father, hiding the body under the porch of his Locust Street home and then using his father's credit card illegally. He is also charged with stealing his father's Jeep sport utility vehicle.

When Paul J. Roberts was indicted, the prosecution attempted to back out of the plea deal on the argument that Roberts had violated the terms of the agreement by not remaining a law-abiding citizen.

Defense attorney James Wallace made a motion stating that the prosecution should be ordered to follow the terms of the agreement or allow his client to withdraw his guilty plea.

Wallace argued that by the laws that apply to contracts, there was no language in the plea agreement that specifically said Paul J. Roberts had to remain a law-abiding citizen.

Goldsberry, however, agreed with the state, ruling that keeping in line with the law, especially while already on probation, is an inherent agreement in a plea deal.

Paul E. Roberts is also the victim in three of the four cases brought before the court on Tuesday, according to Assistant County Prosecutor Elizabeth Pepper.

"This was a father-son relationship in which the defendant took advantage of his father to facilitate the crimes," Pepper told the judge.

The prosecution, who previously said Roberts was a good candidate for community control and offered a suspended jail sentence in the plea agreement, recommended a five-year prison sentence to the court.

Wallace vehemently disagreed with the recommendation, saying nothing about the facts of the case had changed since the agreement was nullified. He also argued that the state wanted his client to be sentenced today to further their plans for a murder trial.

The defense argued that Pepper's assertion that Paul J. Roberts had used the fact that his father was in a nursing home to his advantage in stealing property from the home and using his father's identity in traffic stops was not based in fact. The charges of murder that Pepper mentioned in court, should also not be used for prior offenses, Wallace emphasized.

"(The recommendation) relies on the fact that he's been indicted for murder and transposes that into a conviction," Wallace told the court.

"These facts are unsupportable, impermissible in this court and should not be allowed to affect these cases."

Pepper argued that the murder case was connected because the victim in the murder case was also the victim in the theft and identity fraud cases. The son "benefitted from the death of his father," Pepper said.

"The victim would be the most important part of any testimony in the cases," Pepper told the court.

Goldsberry also weighed in on the fact that Paul J. Roberts had failed to show up to three different pre-sentence investigation appointments in his decision.

During the hearing on Tuesday, Goldsberry also scheduled the jury trial for Roberts. The trial is scheduled for March 18, 2014.