Thornhill gets minimum of 45 years for Punxsutawney shooting
BROOKVILLE — Christopher Thornhill was sentenced by John Foradora to a minimum aggregate sentence of no less than 45 years and no more than 90 in a state correctional institution following his conviction in a shooting that occurred on Sept. 22, 2011 in Punxsutawney.
Last Thursday, a jury found Thornhill guilty of one count of attempted homicide, four counts of aggravated assault (two causing serious bodily injury and two causing injury with a deadly weapon), two counts of simple assault, one count of a person not to possess a firearm and one count of receiving stolen property related to the shooting of Shane Glatt and Richard White, who both survived with severe injuries.
He was declared not guilty of one count of attempted homicide related to White.
The sentencing breakdown was as follows:
• No less than 20 years and no more than 40 for attempted homicide against Glatt.
• No less than 10 years and no more than 20 for aggravated assault felony one against White.
• No less than five years and no more than 10 for aggravated assault felony two against White.
• No less than five years and no more than 10 for person not to possess a firearm.
• No less than five years and no more than 10 for receiving stolen property.
The sentences will be served consecutively. Despite some debate over the matter, Foradora determined that the two aggravated assault charges related to Glatt would merge with the attempted homicide charge. The simple assault charges related to both Glatt and White were merged with the aggravated assault charges.
Prior to the sentencing, the prosecution and the defense were allotted to make a case for what the sentence ought to be.
Individuals who were close to the shooting were also permitted to say a few words, which two members of Glatt's family did, citing the effects of the incident on their household.
District Attorney Jeff Burkett argued for a stiffer sentence on account of a number of aggravating factors. He said the victims' injuries far exceeded the threshold needed to prove seriously bodily injury. He also cited the facts that the incident occurred within the trade of illegal drugs; that Thornhill fired multiple shots, continuing even after one of the victims was down; that Thornhill fled from the scene after the incident, failing to render aid; that he committed the crime with a stolen weapon; and that he did so as a person not to possess a firearm.
Burkett added, "There's been no sign of remorse in Mr. Thornhill."
Defense attorney Fred Hummel disagreed with a number of Burkett's arguments, saying that Thornhill's perceived emotional state could not be used against him in any way. He also stated that the extent of the injuries was stipulated by both parties as being 'serious bodily injury' and could not be considered anything more.
Hummel also argued that the drug trade was not an aggravating circumstance, as both victims were active, willing participants in it. He also pointed out that White and Glatt both testified they had stolen a safe from Thornhill leading up to the shooting.
Hummel closed by arguing that Thornhill could be rehabilitated and did not need to be sentenced for an extended period of time.
"He has talent," he said. "He has quality within him that can be brought out."
Thornhill, speaking in his own defense, said, "If I could go back, I would change a lot of things that happened that night."
Both asked that the judge hand down an appropriate sentence within the standard range for such crimes.
When Foradora returned from deliberation, he made a case for his decision, leading with the statement that "this whole matter shows the scourge of drugs."
Foradora admitted to some of the positive qualities in Thornhill that Hummel had illustrated, saying that it was admirable that Thornhill himself was not addicted to drugs and that, even though it had happened within the criminal drug trade, Thornhill had demonstrated that he had some intelligence and talent as a businessman.
However, in the end, Foradora said he needed to hand down the maximum possible sentence due to what he called a "myriad of reasons."
Among others, he cited the seriousness of the victims' injuries; that Thornhill possessed guns despite the fact that he was not permitted to; that he had fired as many shots as he had; that he had committed the crime in a residential alley; that the victims were defenseless at the time; that he continued to fire even after they were wounded and even though there was an empty child's car seat in the back of the vehicle; that it was a retaliatory action; that Thornhill was not only a drug dealer but an inter-county one; that he had dealt drugs for several months prior to the shooting; that he had been on state intermediate punishment and failed, showing a low chance for rehabilitation; that he had threatened two other people, John Szentmiklosi and Rebecca Siceloff, prior to the shooting; that he had intimidated and threatened a witness, Michael Altman III, between hearings; that he had fled the scene after the incident; that he had attempted to flee from authorities when they tracked him to an apartment in Wilkinsburg; and that he had failed to render aid on the scene. Foradora then handed down the sentence.
Foradora told Thornhill that, even though it would do him little good to get involved in various programming while in prison, he hoped he would consider using that time to help other inmates to whom it would be useful.