Pa. man sentenced under three-strikes repeat offender law

October 30, 2003|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A man convicted of attempted homicide last month likely will spend the rest of his life in prison after being sentenced Wednesday in Franklin County Court to a minimum of 38 years.

Judge Carol Van Horn found Joseph Ward, 46, qualified under Pennsylvania's "three strikes" law as a repeat violent offender and sentenced him to 25 to 50 years in prison for the May 18, 2002, shooting of Dominick Negliaccio of St. Thomas, Pa., in a Chambersburg motel room.

"Nothing less is justified in this case," Van Horn said of the sentence.

Negliaccio was shot through the mouth.

According to testimony from Ward's September jury trial, Ward had Negliaccio in a head lock when he fired the shot. The bullet passed through the back of Negliaccio's neck and struck Ward in the arm. He was arrested a short time later when Chambersburg police pulled over his car.


"Had the bullet been a quarter of an inch over, we'd be looking at a capital case," said Assistant District Attorney John Lisko. He said Ward was probably the first person sentenced in the county under the three strikes law.

Had Van Horn not found Ward came under the three strikes law, the maximum he could have received on the attempted homicide conviction was 20 to 40 years.

The judge then sentenced Ward to another 10 to 20 years for robbery, two to five years for carrying a firearm without a license and one to five years for carrying a firearm with an altered or obliterated identification number. A two- to five-year sentence for receiving stolen property is to run concurrent with the robbery sentence.

"Fittingly, you are in a three strikes position," Van Horn told Ward. She recounted a long criminal history dating back to at least 1976, when he was convicted of first-degree attempted robbery in Nassau County, N.Y., a crime for which he received five to 15 years in prison.

"New York is strike one," Van Horn said. The second strike was a burglary conviction in Adams County, Pa., for which he was sentenced to five to 121/2 years in prison, she said.

Van Horn noted that Ward was released on parole, but "maxed out" on the sentence because he was arrested for other crimes. Since his release in 1997, Van Horn said he had been arrested in 2000 for possession of drug paraphernalia; for driving under the influence in Washington County in 2001; and for receiving stolen property in Martinsburg, W.Va., in 2002.

Ward declined to speak when offered the opportunity during his sentencing. Negliaccio, who arrived midway through the sentencing, also declined to comment.

Lisko, however, recounted details of Ward's previous crimes after the sentencing. In the New York attempted robbery, "he threw Clorox in the guy's eyes during the course of the robbery," Lisko said.

In the Adams County burglary, Ward and another man broke into a home, but the woman who lived there arrived during the course of the break-in. Using a shotgun they found in the house and then loaded, Ward and the other man made her disrobe and forced her under a bed before leaving, Lisko said.

Assistant Public Defender Paul Rockwell argued unsuccessfully that Ward's previous convictions did not qualify under the three strikes law and asked the judge to merge the attempted homicide with the robbery charge in the Negliaccio case.

"I'm very pleased with the sentence," Lisko said. "This is an effective life sentence for the guy."

Ward will not be eligible for parole until he is 84 years old.

Van Horn also ordered Ward to pay more than $36,000 in restitution in the case, mostly for medical insurance and lab fees. He was fined $1,300 and ordered to pay $250 to have his DNA registered with the state.

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