August 6, 2007
STEUBENVILLE — A Cincinnati man who admitted to pulling the trigger in a July 29, 2006, murder on South Court Alley was attacked by the victim’s father Monday in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court.
Antonio Clifford, 20, pleaded guilty before Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. to single counts of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and tampering with evidence. He was sentenced to 33 years to life in prison. Clifford was then attacked by Mike Sweat, the victim’s father, during victim impact statements.
The victim’s father, Mike Sweat, was approaching the witness stand with a picture of his son when he attacked the defendant. He said he wanted to show Clifford the picture but dove across the defense table, swinging at Clifford and trying to choke him.
Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla was sitting behind Clifford and immediately pulled the father off the defendant.
Family members of the victim and defendant were screaming and crying and began to argue among themselves.
Abdalla yelled for the courtroom to be cleared while deputies and responding Steubenville police officers worked to get the father on the ground and in restraints.
Mike Sweat cried and screamed the whole time, even shouting obscenities at Clifford.
He was taken to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, where Abdalla said the grieving father calmed down. The sheriff said he didn’t expect any charges to be filed.
County Assistant Prosecutor Jane Keenan told the judge the prosecutor’s office was removing a death penalty specification as part of the plea agreement that led Clifford to enter a guilty plea.
Joshua Ryan Sweat, 28, of 123 Sherwood Road, Weirton came to Steubenville July 29, 2006, looking to buy drugs, Keenan said. He was taken to behind a bar, located about a block from the Steubenville Police Department, and met by several men who came from inside the bar, Keenan said. The men decided to rob Sweat, but he resisted.
Police said Sweat was shot once in the back of the head. He was taken to Trinity Medical Center West then transported to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where he died about 11 hours later.
Two other co-defendants already have pleaded guilty in the case
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