Category: Armstrong County Court House

Rosenberger Pleads Guilty in Crimes Leading to St. Patrick’s Day Homicide

Dennis Rosenberger of Ford City (shown via his 2013 jail inmate photo) plead guilty last week to crimes ultimately leading to the March 17, 2013 death of Chicora’s James Sullivan outside the Wick City Saloon in Kittanning Borough.

By Jonathan Weaver

One of the four local men charged with the death of a Chicora man on St. Patrick’s Day 2013 pleaded guilty to two of the six charges filed against him in open court Thursday.

Dennis Rosenberger – who at the time of the incident lived in Kittanning Borough, but now resides with family in Ford City while on house arrest – pled guilty before President Judge Kenneth Valasek to single counts of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault in the death of James Sullivan outside of the Wick City Saloon near Montieth Street in Kittanning Borough.

By virtue of the plea agreement, the other four charges levied against Rosenberger – including felony first-degree criminal homicide – have been waived and Rosenberger will not have to stand trial later this week.

Rosenberger, now 28 – was arrested days after the incident.

Rosenberger’s attorney Gregory W. Swank explained to the Kittanning Paper outside of the Armstrong County Courthouse that he and his client agreed to the plea agreement after multiple discussions with the District Attorney’s office since the agreement was “fair and appropriate.”

“Mr. Rosenberger had made statements to the police that he in fact did strike Mr. Sullivan – gave him a single blow to the head -, that he acknowledged to police that that blow to the head caused Mr. Sullivan to lose consciousness and fall to the ground. In addition, there were numerous witnesses who would’ve been able to testify that that is in fact what happened, so we felt there was no question the Commonwealth could prove beyond a reasonable doubt at trial that an aggravated assault had occurred, and that Mr. Rosenberger was the one who committed the aggravated assault,” Swank said.

In the courtroom, Assistant District Attorney Chase McClister read from court documents that Rosenberger is charged with punching Sullivan in the face when he was not expecting it, which knocked Sullivan backward against the pavement, fracturing his skull and knocking him unconscious.

“This contributed to and in part caused the death of Mr. Sullivan,” McClister said.

While that punch alone did not result in Sullivan’s immediate death, Swank acknowledged that forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht determined during an autopsy that injuries caused by the impact to the head, if not treated, could have alone caused Sullivan’s death.

Attorney Swank said he has been able to talk about the offense and visit the crime scene with Rosenberger – who cannot read -, as well as what he would be admitting to and what he should expect to be sentenced to.

Rosenberger’s illiteracy led Judge Valask to suspend accepting the plea agreement as to explain the impact and a plea questionnaire Rosenberger signed.

“Did you understand everything?,” Judge Valasek asked.

“No,” Rosenberger replied.

“Was there any particular part you didn’t understand?,” Judge Valasek asked.

“Any of it,” Rosenberger replied.

Judge Valasek heard 10 separate pleas for crimes such as theft and driving offenses before revisiting Rosenberger’s plea about an hour-and-a-half later as the clock tolled 11AM.

By pleading guilty to both charges, Rosenberger could be sentenced to a total of 25 years in the Armstrong County Jail – 20 years for the felony aggravated assault alone – and to pay $35,000 in fines or both.

But, Rosenberger should not be expected to serve that amount of time, Swank explained.

“However, Mr. Rosenberger has no appreciable criminal history – we believe he has a prior record score of zero – which would call for a sentence within the sentencing guidelines of the aggravated assault charge and anywhere between 36 and 42 months (of incarceration). We would expect the judge to sentence within the guidelines,” Swank said.

Rosenberger will be sentenced September 23.

District Attorney Scott Andreassi was not available for comment before the holiday weekend.

Swank did not consult with the other three defendants charged in the incident– including Keith Brison of Kittanning and Anthony Bove and Otilio Cosme – both of Ford City – before the plea was made Thursday.

Kittanning Road Rage Assailant Sentenced to Jail

William Brice

A Kittanning man accused of 40 counts of aggravated assault, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person, among other charges, during a vehicle crash in September was sentenced to serve more time in the Armstrong County Jail.

William C. Brice, 23 of Kittanning, was sentenced to 18 days to two years behind bars after allegedly assaulting two adults, a teenager and an 18-month-old infant during a road rage incident in South Bend Township.

In the early morning of Friday, September 6, according to the original Pennsylvania State Police report, Brice attempted to ram a vehicle of Rebecca Adair, 19 of Homer City at the intersection of Route 156 and Montgomery Mills Road. Adair was able to stop Brice from ramming the vehicle, but Brice kicked out the front driver’s side window.

None of the vehicle occupants – including the other 19 and 17 year old victims from Avonmore or the 18-month-old infant from Homer City – suffered physical injuries and were able to contact State Police troopers safely.

Brice was initially charged with four counts each of felony aggravated assault, felony aggravated assault by vehicle, misdemeanor simple assault, misdemeanor terroristic threats during his arraignment before District Magisterial Judge Samuel Goldstrohm at 2AM the morning of the attack.

More than half of those charges were dismissed after bail from the Armstrong County Jail was posted two weeks later and before formal arraignment in the Court of Common Pleas by Judge Joseph Nickleach.

Of the approximately dozen charges remaining, Brice plead guilty to the lone misdemeanor charges of simple assault and recklessly endangering another person before Judge James Panchik in April with Public Defender Preston Younkins.

Tuesday morning, Judge Panchik sentenced Brice to 18 days to two years due to the simple assault charge. No further penalty was assessed on the plea of recklessly endangering another person. He was credited with 18 days jail time.

Other penalties assessed to Brice include a $300.00 fine; $133.56 restitution to and refraining from contact with the victim and 60 hours of community service.