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MUNICIPAL COURT Harris pleads no contest to drug possession charges

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The former congressional staffer resigned his position after the arrest.
WARREN -- The fine was minimal but Willie C. Harris Jr. said the price he paid for three misdemeanor charges was "devastating."
Harris, 34, of North Park Avenue, pleaded no contest Wednesday in municipal court to misdemeanor charges of speeding and possession of marijuana. Judge Thomas Gysegem dismissed a driving under suspension charge. The judge fined Harris $35 plus court costs.
"This was completely devastating," said Harris, after his brief hearing in court. "This was all over the news. My kids saw this on television. It was horrible. Absolutely horrible." Harris was the community projects coordinator for U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, but resigned that post shortly after his Jan. 14 arrest. He said he recently found a new job and now works for a community organization that helps inmates learn to live in society after being released from prison.
Harris was stopped by city police Jan. 14 on Youngstown Road S.E. going 50 mph in a 30 mph zone, police reports state.
Officer Tim Parana's report said Harris tried to chew up marijuana as police approached his car. The officer asked Harris to spit out the substance but Harris refused. Parana wrote that he could smell the odor of marijuana from Harris' mouth.
Harris also placed a piece of a plastic bag in the middle of the front seat and eventually spit a portion of the substance onto his lap, the report continues.
Asked to leave the vehicle, Harris continued to chew and then spit the remainder of the suspected marijuana into a Youngstown Road parking lot, the report states. The suspected marijuana was taken as evidence.