Judge sends Shaffer to jail in deadly road rage attack

Sen­tenced: Ger­ard Shaf­fer Jr. and his moth­er, Mary Beth. TIMES FILE PHOTO

The fam­ily and friends of Mark Wal­lace were glad last week that a judge did not al­low Gerry Shaf­fer Jr. to walk out of the Crim­in­al Justice Cen­ter a free man. 

A jury in Janu­ary con­victed Shaf­fer, 24, of in­vol­un­tary man­slaughter in Wal­lace’s death. He was ac­quit­ted of the much more ser­i­ous charge of third-de­gree murder. The jury de­term­ined that he did not act with malice in April 2010 when he scuffled on a Far North­east street with Wal­lace, who died of a brain in­jury after his head hit the ground.

Sen­ten­cing guidelines called for a sen­tence of three to 12 months in jail. Shaf­fer’s at­tor­neys had hoped that Judge Lil­lian Ransom would give him cred­it for five months already served in county jail and sen­tence him to pro­ba­tion.

Shaf­fer Jr. apo­lo­gized be­fore hear­ing his fate.

“I’m so deeply sorry,” he said.

In the end, Ransom sen­tenced him to 11½ to 23 months in jail, with cred­it for time served, fol­lowed by two years of pro­ba­tion. He was taken in­to cus­tody.

“We’re very lucky to get this,” said Nancy Kolen­kiewicz, Wal­lace’s sis­ter. “I’m just glad for my broth­er’s sake. I hope [Shaf­fer] gets the help that he needs.”

Shaf­fer cried through much of the tri­al and the March 27 sen­ten­cing hear­ing. He tried to hug fam­ily mem­bers be­fore be­ing es­cor­ted out of the courtroom by a sher­iff’s deputy, but court rules pro­hib­ited that.

Shaf­fer’s fam­ily and friends did not want to talk to the news me­dia af­ter­ward.

De­fense at­tor­ney Jam­ie Funt de­scribed his cli­ent as “cir­cum­spect” and his fam­ily as “dis­traught.” Funt poin­ted out that the city pro­ba­tion and pa­role de­part­ment’s pre-sen­tence re­port re­com­men­ded pro­ba­tion, but he re­spec­ted the bal­an­cing act that Ransom had to do.

“We cer­tainly are a little dis­ap­poin­ted,” he said.

Coley Reyn­olds, an­oth­er at­tor­ney for Shaf­fer, said he be­lieves his cli­ent will lead a pro­duct­ive life once re­leased from jail.

“He wants to get a job and have a fam­ily. The court is nev­er go­ing to see him again,” he said.

As­sist­ant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Peter Lim said he was sat­is­fied with the sen­tence.

Shaf­fer, of the 4100 block of Farm­dale Road, was a stu­dent at Or­leans Tech­nic­al In­sti­tute and hoped to be­come a fire­man at the time of the in­cid­ent. In the last two years, he has stud­ied com­puters at a loc­al ca­reer in­sti­tute and is one cred­it shy of get­ting a dip­loma.

Wal­lace, 54, of the 3900 block of Pa­tri­cian Drive, died 12 days after an al­ter­ca­tion with Shaf­fer and his fath­er on April 8, 2010, at the in­ter­sec­tion of Knights and Fairdale roads.

At the tri­al, testi­mony showed that Shaf­fer Sr., a fire­man, was driv­ing east on Fairdale Road when he honked his horn at Wal­lace, a ped­es­tri­an. Shaf­fer Jr. was a pas­sen­ger.

The eld­er Shaf­fer and Wal­lace ex­changed un­pleas­ant­ries, with the ped­es­tri­an in­sist­ing he had the right of way.

Shaf­fer Sr. parked his truck, got out and walked to­ward Wal­lace. A fight en­sued, and Shaf­fer Jr. even­tu­ally joined the ruck­us.

The pro­sec­u­tion’s key eye­wit­ness test­i­fied that she heard voices from the Shaf­fers’ Dodge Dur­ango tell Wal­lace to, “Get the f—- out of the way.” She re­called Wal­lace back­ing up with his hands in the air, and Shaf­fer Jr. pick­ing him up and slam­ming him to the ground.

Po­lice later iden­ti­fied and ar­res­ted the Shaf­fers after a wit­ness copied down their li­cense plate num­ber at the scene.

Shaf­fer Sr. died of a heart at­tack at age 48 in Decem­ber 2011 while he was await­ing tri­al for murder.

In testi­mony dur­ing his tri­al, Shaf­fer Jr. said he was try­ing to break up the fight when he and Wal­lace fell to the ground.

At the sen­ten­cing hear­ing, Shaf­fer stood and read from pre­pared re­marks.

“I feel your pain,” he told Wal­lace’s fam­ily.

Funt said Shaf­fer had had a rough young life, be­ing phys­ic­ally ab­used by his fath­er, los­ing a broth­er to a drug over­dose and wor­ry­ing about his sis­ter’s chron­ic kid­ney dis­ease. 

Shaf­fer said he tried to help, not hurt, Wal­lace, adding that he of­ten thinks about what he could have done dif­fer­ently.

At the hear­ing, Lim spoke of a Ju­ly 2006 in­cid­ent that led to the then-17-year-old Shaf­fer plead­ing guilty to an in­de­cent as­sault charge. The grand­moth­er of the 13-year-old fe­male vic­tim was in court, but Ransom did not al­low her to speak.

The pro­sec­utor poin­ted out that Shaf­fer, on mul­tiple oc­ca­sions fol­low­ing that ad­ju­dic­a­tion, test­i­fied pos­it­ive for marijuana.

Kolen­kiewicz, Wal­lace’s sis­ter, and Mar­ie Wal­lace, his wife, harshly cri­ti­cized Shaf­fer in court.

Kolen­kiewicz showed graph­ic pic­tures of her broth­er’s in­jur­ies after the in­cid­ent. The judge did not al­low the jury to see those pho­tos.

Kolen­kiewicz de­scribed her broth­er as kind, gen­er­ous, proud and thought­ful. She be­lieves he was headed to Rite-Aid on that fate­ful day to buy her a “get well” card.

“He helped every­body and any­body,” she said.

Kolen­kiewicz told Shaf­fer he was “a cow­ard and a crybaby and a crim­in­al.” .

Mar­ie Wal­lace read a lengthy let­ter. She cri­ti­cized de­fense at­tor­neys for blam­ing Shaf­fer Sr. for the in­cid­ent, not­ing that the young­er Shaf­fer made a choice that early spring even­ing.

“A choice to be vi­ol­ent. A choice to be a punk,” she said.

Wal­lace said Shaf­fer, whom she labeled a “vi­ol­ent bad-ass,” smashed her hus­band’s skull in­to the con­crete like a wa­ter bal­loon. She ques­tioned his re­morse, re­call­ing that he did not cry dur­ing pre-tri­al hear­ings, wait­ing for the tri­al.

“Tears galore for the jury of your peers,” she said.

Shaf­fer told the court the epis­ode  will re­main with him forever.

 “I will carry this for the rest of my life,” he said. ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­ing@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

comments powered by Disqus