Court denies West Liberty-Salem school shooter appeal

An Ohio appeals court says a Champaign County judge did nothing wrong when he sentenced the convicted West Liberty-Salem school shooter to 23½ years in prison.

Three judges with the Court of Appeals of Ohio Second Appellate District in a unanimous decision said Champaign County Common Pleas Judge Nicholas Selvaggio acted properly while sentencing Ely Serna.

“Serna’s convictions are affirmed,” the court said in its ruling.

ExploreCourt of appeals hears arguments in Champaign County shooter case

Serna was convicted of bringing a shotgun to school and opening fire, shooting then-West Liberty-Salem student Logan Cole twice, leaving the teen badly injured. Serna also shot at a teacher and into classrooms.

He was charged with a number of felonies but pleaded guilty to attempted murder, felonious assault and inducing panic just days before a trial was set to begin. Currently, Serna has served a little more than 1½ years in jail.

His defense team argued to the appeals court on Sept. 3 that Selvaggio erred by researching the drug Vyvanse before Serna’s sentencing. Serna admitted multiple times of using the drug, the court said. The defense said Selvaggio was wrong to rely on information outside the record when sentencing Serna.

Champaign County Prosecutor Kevin Talebi argued to the court in favor of the sentence, saying Selvaggio simply used the material to discuss the drug Vyvanse with the defense’s expert.

“He used the information as a basic building block to question the expert witness,” Talebi said.

The court agreed with the state, adding that rules for sentencing are different from a trial and the law allows leeway for a judge to collect information.

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“For sentencing purposes, the trial court permissibly relied on basic information about the prescription medication Vyvanse posted by the manufacturer on its website, such as the drug’s chemical composition and intended clinical applications,” the court said. “Although the trial court engaged in an ill-advised analysis of the possible effects that Vyvanse might have had on Serna’s mental health in light of the manufacturer’s side effects advisory, its analysis was superfluous because it sentenced Serna primarily on the basis of the harm caused to the victims of the shooting.”

The defense team also argued to the court that Selvaggio should have considered Serna’s age before sentencing him to the maximum sentence.

The appeals court ruled against the defense again, saying Selvaggio did not need to take Serna’s age into account.

“The court, furthermore, was not required to consider Serna’s age as a mitigating factor,” the court ruled.

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