Northeast Times

Sentencing in ’06 fatal robbery sparks courtroom clash

On a day when three mem­bers of a mur­der­ous Frank­ford street gang known as the “Park­side Push­ers” fi­nally met justice, a vi­ol­ent post-sen­tence out­burst by one of the de­fend­ant’s re­l­at­ives might’ve earned him a new nick­name — the Park­side Punch­er.

Do­mon­ic M. Gordine, 23, al­legedly began swinging his fists on Fri­day mo­ments after learn­ing that his broth­er Sean, 22, would be spend­ing the next 40 years to life in state pris­on for the Oc­to­ber 2006 shoot­ing death of Mi­chael Thi­erry dur­ing a botched street-corner rob­bery. The eld­er Gordine al­legedly punched Jaime Vona, a child­hood friend of the murder vic­tim, in the back of the head after Com­mon Pleas Court Judge Ben­jamin Lern­er is­sued Sean’s sen­tence. Vona was sit­ting dir­ectly in front of Do­mon­ic Gordine in the courtroom gal­lery.

Dur­ing the en­su­ing mel­ee, a brace­let al­legedly be­came dis­lodged from Do­mon­ic Gordine’s wrist and struck an­oth­er wo­man in the back. That bystand­er was on hand as a vic­tims’ ad­voc­ate. Neither wo­man was ser­i­ously in­jured.

As­sist­ant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Mark Gilson, courtroom staff and Phil­adelphia sher­iff’s depu­ties sub­dued the ra­ging Gordine, who is deaf and had learned the ver­dict with the as­sist­ance of a sign-lan­guage trans­lat­or. Au­thor­it­ies charged him with two counts of simple as­sault and re­leased him on his own re­cog­niz­ance after a night in a base­ment jail cell at Po­lice Headquar­ters.

On the oth­er hand, Sean Gordine and two of his co-con­spir­at­ors won’t see free­dom any­time soon. Jerry Ran­some, 23, also earned a 40-to-life sen­tence, while his broth­er Isai­ah Ran­some, 25, earned a life sen­tence without pa­role. A fourth killer, Eric I. Gales, 23, will be sen­tenced on Sept. 13.

All but Isai­ah Ran­some were spared life-without-pa­role sen­tences be­cause they were ju­ven­iles at the time of the murder. All four were charged as adults and ul­ti­mately con­victed of second-de­gree murder after two full tri­als. The first tri­al ended in a hung jury.

Un­der Pennsylvania sen­ten­cing law at the time of the crime, the four would have been sub­ject to man­dat­ory life sen­tences without pa­role. But last year, the United States Su­preme Court ruled such sen­tences un­con­sti­tu­tion­al for ju­ven­iles, even those who were charged as adults.

In yet an­oth­er un­usu­al twist, the court heard testi­mony from a slain Phil­adelphia po­lice of­ficer — Sgt. Patrick Mc­Don­ald — on be­half of the murder vic­tim. Mc­Don­ald and Thi­erry, who was 29, were child­hood friends who grew up in the North­east’s Mor­rell Park sec­tion. Mc­Don­ald in­ten­ded to read an im­pact state­ment in court if the de­fend­ants were con­victed at their ini­tial tri­al in June 2008. In­stead, there was a mis­tri­al. Four months later, a wanted state pris­on pa­rolee gunned down Mc­Don­ald dur­ing a car stop in North Philly.

Mc­Don­ald’s moth­er, Pa­tri­cia, read her son’s state­ment aloud for the court and was sit­ting an arm’s length from Vona when Do­mon­ic Gordine al­legedly at­tacked her.

Thi­erry’s murder oc­curred on Oct. 3, 2006, at Ros­a­lie and Hor­rocks streets. The vic­tim was chat­ting with three friends out­side an apart­ment build­ing where at least one of the friends lived. The four de­fend­ants were each armed with guns and ap­proached Thi­erry’s group, in­tend­ing to rob them. Thi­erry and his friends were trapped on the front steps.

Thi­erry tried to run away, but all four de­fend­ants opened fire. Two bul­lets struck Thi­erry, in­clud­ing one in the back of the head. Thi­erry’s friends were not wounded, but in­vest­ig­at­ors re­covered a bul­let from in­side the build­ing, in­dic­at­ing that the killers had fired to­ward the oth­ers. In­vest­ig­at­ors were un­able to cal­cu­late the total num­ber of shots fired be­cause some of the bul­lets were nev­er re­covered, in­clud­ing the second one that struck Thi­erry in the torso, said As­sist­ant Dis­trict At­tor­ney An­drew Not­ar­istefano.

In plead­ing for le­ni­ency from Lern­er, Sean Gordine and Jerry Ran­some each offered teary apo­lo­gies to Thi­erry’s fam­ily and friends, al­though Ran­some con­tin­ued to deny in­volve­ment.

“I would like you to not look at me like a mon­ster or an­im­al,” Jerry Ran­some said. “I’m far from a prob­lem­at­ic in­di­vidu­al. I’m not a mon­ster. I’m not a mur­der­er. I’ve nev­er killed any­one in my life. I’ve nev­er shot any­one in my life. I’m mis­un­der­stood.”

Ran­some’s moth­er echoed Jerry’s sen­ti­ments.

“All I can say is my son’s a good boy, con­trary to what people be­lieve,” Tammy Ran­some said.

Lern­er called upon Sean Gordine and Jerry Ran­some to “own” their crimes and to use their lengthy pris­on sen­tences pro­duct­ively. Par­tic­u­larly, the con­victs even­tu­ally could coun­sel young­er crooks, the judge said. •• 

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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