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Cops and Courts

Woman gets 5 years for hitting bicyclist with car

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    Lisa Harris looks to her attorney, Patrick Hakos, after Judge Chris Cook sentenced her to five years in prison Friday in Lorain County Common Pleas Court in Elyria.

    BRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE

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ELYRIA — A Cleveland woman was sentenced to five years in prison for attempted murder after running over a man riding a bicycle with her car after a planned meeting with him went askew.

Lisa Harris, 30, pleaded guilty to one count of attempted murder, two counts of felonious assault and a count of vehicular assault March 1.

The Ohio Highway Patrol said Harris ran over then 21-year-old Rhett Tousel, who was riding a bicycle, with a 2002 Ford Taurus about 2:45 p.m. Nov. 22, 2017. Tousel had been riding a blue 18-speed Ultra Terrain bicycle in Eaton Estates when he was struck by the car driven by Harris.

Residents who came outside after hearing a loud sound said they found Tousel trapped beneath the Taurus. When paramedics arrived, they had to lift the vehicle off Tousel, according to a search warrant filed last year in Lorain County Common Pleas Court.

Harris told troopers that she was trying to find her way out of Eaton Estates by calling a friend when she struck Tousel with the car.

However, a search warrant indicated that troopers believed Harris and Tousel knew each other and had communicated via text messages to set up a meeting.

Witnesses at the scene said they heard Harris say she had been robbed by Tousel just prior to the incident and was upset.

During the sentencing hearing, Judge Chris Cook said the incident was “over a bunch of nonsense” and he wouldn’t embarrass Harris by going into the details.

He listed Harris’ extensive criminal record, which includes charges of solicitation, permitting prostitution, misconduct in public, eight charges of operating a vehicle while impaired, drug possession and receiving stolen property.

Harris asked Cook to give her another chance, saying she has learned from her mistakes.

“I am ashamed and embarrassed for this situation that involved me in the legal system,” Harris said. “I have a past that I’m not proud of and have worked very hard to move past. I am not the person that I once was.”

Tousel’s mother, Amy Cather, wrote a letter to Cook that was read in open court. In it, Cather said Harris not only knocked Tousel off his bike, but completely ran over him with the car.

“Rhett spent almost a month in the hospital with his injuries,” Cather said in the letter. “He suffered numerous broken bones and burns to his arm. (For) 14 of those days, he was on a ventilator; not knowing whether he was going to be able to breathe on his own was one of the most horrible things I’ve ever had to deal with.”

Cather said her son also had to have a feeding tube, spent weeks in a rehabilitation center, had four surgeries on his throat and still has scars on his arm from the burns he suffered from the incident.

“He had to spend Thanksgiving in the hospital, Christmas and New Year’s in a rehabilitation center,” Cather said. “I would truly hate for anyone else to have to go through something like this. Considering the violent nature of this crime, I would ask that you give Lisa Harris the maximum sentence allowable by law.”

Harris faced a maximum sentence of 11 years.

Defense attorney Patrick Hakos asked Cook to give Harris the minimum sentence of three years, saying that she has “very serious drug and alcohol issues” and has seven children — two biological and five stepchildren.

Troopers have said Harris failed a field sobriety test at the scene of the incident. She also recently was sentenced to 15 months in prison by a Cuyahoga County judge after pleading guilty to driving under the influence.

Harris’ sentence in the Lorain County case will run concurrently with the sentence of the Cuyahoga County case, Cook said.

“I’m still young enough that this doesn’t have to define me,” Harris said in a letter read in open court. “My past is a place I will never return to if you will allow me to be the mother, wife and citizen I can be proud of being.”

Cook said he will consider granting Harris judicial release after she serves four years of her five-year sentence, depending on good behavior and talking with the Tousels.

Contact Scott Mahoney at (440) 329-7146 or smahoney@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @SMahoneyCT.


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