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. ••