STEUBENVILLE, Ohio – The father of a murder victim dived across the defense table, swung at his son's killer and tried to choke him in an eastern Ohio courtroom on Monday before a sheriff and other law enforcement officers pulled the two men apart.
Antonio Clifford, 20, of Cincinnati had just pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and tampering with evidence in the July 29, 2006, shooting death of Joshua Ryan Sweat, 28, of Weirton, W.Va.
Sweat was trying to buy drugs behind a Steubenville bar when he was robbed and shot once in the back of the head. He died later at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Before sentencing Clifford on Monday, Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. allowed Sweat's relatives to stand and read statements.
Mike Sweat, the victim's father, approached Clifford saying he wanted to show him a picture. He then attacked and screamed obscenities at Clifford while police wrestled Sweat to the ground.
Sweat was taken to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, where Sheriff Fred Abdalla said he calmed down. Sweat will likely not be charged, Abdalla said.
After the courtroom was cleared of the victim's family members, Bruzzese sentenced Clifford to 33 years to life in prison. Because Clifford pleaded guilty, prosecutors chose not to seek the death penalty, prosecutor Jane Keenan said.
Two other co-defendants, both from Steubenville, have already pleaded guilty in the case. Byron Johnson, 20, was sentenced to 18 years to life in prison. Patrick Thurman, 20, is awaiting sentencing.