Judge, North Royalton police chief get into heated exchange over whether man convicted of assaulting officer should be released early

Judge, North Royalton police chief get into heated exchange

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The North Royalton police chief and a Cuyahoga County judge were involved in an intense interaction in court on Wednesday over a now-denied motion for early prison release from a man convicted of violently attacking a female officer.

The exchange took place during a court hearing that was initially scheduled so that North Royalton Police Officer Alexandra Bell to testify against a motion to have John Pugnea released prematurely.

Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas judge Daniel Gaul threatened to hold North Royalton Police Chief Kenneth Bilinovich, who spoke in support of Bell after saying he and other officers received death threats from Pugnea, in contempt of court.

Watch the intense exchange and entire court proceedings below:

Judge could decide if man who attacked North Royalton officer should be granted early prison release

Judge could decide if man who attacked North Royalton officer should be granted early prison release https://bit.ly/39vhDCh

Posted by Cleveland 19 News on Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Despite the motion for release, Judge Gaul said that he learned from Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley an hour before Wednesday afternoon’s court hearing that Pugnea was not actually eligible because the original indictment involved a peace officer a serious physical harm.

Pugnea was originally granted judicial release earlier this month after serving only nine months of a four-year sentence on felonious assault and aggravated menacing convictions.

The maximum sentence could have been 15 years, according to the judge.

Bell described being held down by Pugnea during the 2019 assault. He even tried to gouge her eyes out during the attack that happened when she responded to a 911 call.

According to the prosecutor, Bell was not notified about Pugnea’s release hearing and did not have the opportunity to speak out against him being let out early.

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