By Joe Gorman
Steven Direnzo is the exception to the axiom, “History does not repeat itself.”
His arrest after leading U.S. marshals on a chase late Monday afternoon repeated a pattern stretching back to at least 1997 in which he is arrested, pleads guilty, is given probation, then violates the probation and is sent back to prison.
The marshals went to arrest him on a burglary warrant and probation violation; he ran from the car and left his 4-year-old grandson inside, police report.
On probation after a 2013 arrest in which he was labeled a “career criminal,” Direnzo, 43, has gone through at least eight court-appointed attorneys, five common pleas court judges, two county court judges and several judges in Youngstown and Struthers municipal courts.
“He plunders the community every day,” said Boardman Police Chief Jack Nichols. “That’s basically what he does.”
He is in the Mahoning County jail on charges of a parole violation, fleeing and eluding and child endangering, as well as a warrant for a burglary he is accused of committing Friday.
Direnzo is accused of going to a car dealership Friday with another person and asking to test drive a car. The salesman insisted on accompanying the two men, who wanted to take the car themselves. They drove to a home in the 5000 block of Sheridan Road, where the salesman left them because he felt uncomfortable. A woman who lives in the home later told police it was ransacked, and cash and $1,000 worth of mint coins were taken.
Police and marshals tried to arrest Direnzo on the burglary warrant and parole violation about 5:45 p.m. at his home in the 5000 block of Lightner Place. Reports said he drove away at a high speed and almost hit two police vehicles before hitting a curb at Oles Avenue. He then ran away from the car and left the grandchild. He eventually was caught.
The child endangering is a fourth-degree felony because of a prior child-endangering conviction in Youngstown Municipal Court. He also has an outstanding warrant from municipal court for skipping a May 26 arraignment on traffic and drug charges.
In May, he was sentenced in common pleas court to five years’ probation on a felony count of obstructing justice. Police served a search warrant at a Mathews Road home in June 2013 and found large amounts of jewelry, tools, radio equipment, drugs and drug paraphernalia and identification cards belonging to victims of other crimes. Court records show charges were filed against him at least 20 different times — not counting traffic cases.
Violating probation or parole is not a new thing for Direnzo. In 2000 in Mahoning County Court in Boardman, he was given a suspended 84-day jail sentence on theft and obstructing-justice charges, with credit for three days served. Twice he was brought back to court for violating probation and ended up serving the entire sentence.
Twice, court records show he was granted judicial release by common pleas court, only to have it revoked for violating terms of an early release. In 2005, he was sentenced to two years’ probation after pleading guilty to two counts of trafficking in drugs, only to be brought back for violating probation and given a 30-month sentence. Twice he filed for judicial release, on May 2, 2007, and Aug. 10, 2007, and had both requests denied by former Judge Maureen Cronin. Former Judge Timothy Franken granted his third request Nov. 6, 2007, but it then was revoked Feb. 15, 2008, and he was sent back to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence.
In 2009, Direnzo was sentenced to five years in prison upon conviction of receiving stolen property and theft charges. He asked for judicial release, and it was granted in March 2011. It was revoked again in May 2011, and he was given a stricter set of guidelines on probation.
Nichols said he has learned in his career in law enforcement not to get frustrated by how the criminal justice system sometimes operates, instead concentrating on his role and his department’s role in the system. “Our job is to catch ’em,” Nichols said.
Nichols said he has discussed the new charges Direnzo faces with county Prosecutor Paul J. Gains. Gains said sometimes there is not much that can be done with someone who is charged with low-level felonies such as Direnzo usually is, because the presumption is probation or at most just a year or 18 months in prison.
“I don’t know what to do with a guy like him,” Gains said. “He can only go away for a year or two, and the court’s hands are tied.”