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Man sentenced to 50-100 years in prison for Clairton home invasion

Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - Clairton officer James Kuzak Jr. gets choked up as he talks about his girlfriend's support at a rally in support of the officer at the Allegheny County Courthouse Friday in response to the verdict issued Thursday, as Emilio Rivera and Marcus Andrejco were found not guilty on charges related to the officer’s shooting.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review</em></div>Clairton officer James Kuzak Jr. gets choked up as he talks about his girlfriend's support at a rally in support of the officer at the Allegheny County Courthouse Friday in response to the verdict issued Thursday, as Emilio Rivera and Marcus Andrejco were found not guilty on charges related to the officer’s shooting.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review - Emilio Rivera, a suspect in the shooting of Clairton police officerJames Kuzak, is walked into his preliminary hearing at Glassport District Court on Wednesday November 16, 2011.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review</em></div>Emilio Rivera, a suspect in the shooting of Clairton police officerJames Kuzak, is walked into his preliminary hearing at Glassport District Court on Wednesday November 16, 2011.

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Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, 4:56 a.m.
 

A McKees Rocks man was sentenced Thursday to 50-100 years in prison for a violent home invasion that left a Clairton police officer paralyzed from the waist down.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Edward J. Borkowski imposed the sentence on 27-year-old Emilio Rivera, whom a jury found guilty in August of burglary, four counts of robbery, four counts of unlawful restraint and four counts of recklessly endangering another person.

He was acquitted of charges connected to the shooting of part-time patrolman James Kuzak Jr., 40, of Rostraver Township.

Charges stem from an incident at 858 Miller Ave. in Clairton on April 4, 2011, around 10:45 p.m.

Rivera's codefendant at that trial, Marcus Andrejco, 19, of Rankin, was acquitted on all charges.

Kuzak was shot five times at the rear of the residence by a fleeing assailant — twice in his bulletproof vest, once in the forearm, once in the side and once just above his vest. His lung and spine were severely injured and he continues a long road to recovery through outpatient physical therapy.

Rivera, shackled and wearing a suit, maintained his innocence when he addressed the court after consulting with his attorney Paul Gettleman.

“I honestly feel like there will never be justice for this case, period, when all you have are victims,” Rivera said. “I became a victim myself. That's all.”

Prior to the judge's ruling, deputy district attorney Dan Fitzsimmons told the court that Rivera has engaged in a continuous and escalating series of violent offenses involving drugs and guns since the age of 13.

Fitzsimmons said two adults who were in the Miller Avenue home at the time of the invasion provided victim impact statements, but declined to attend the sentencing.

The hearing was interrupted by outbursts from some of Rivera's relatives, who quickly stepped outside the courtroom.

Mayra Rivera claimed her son was targeted because he is Latino, and because the case involves a wounded police officer.

“My son is innocent. He did nothing,” she said. “It's just because of an officer. Where's the people? Where's the victims? They're not here. It's because of Officer Kuzak. It's some racist issue. It's really racist. My son did not shoot Kuzak. It was proven when the jury gave the verdict. They said he did not shoot him. This is unfair. We're going to keep fighting.”

She said the family plans to appeal.

Kuzak, who was not permitted to give a victim impact statement at the sentencing, afterward said he and his family plan to move forward.

“I guess I can feel some comfort,” he said. “The person who knows who shot me is going to spend the rest of his life in prison. I believe he knows why. Whether or not he accepts it, I accept it. It worked in our favor, as I believe the system would. We had some rough steps along the way with this court case, but I think today pretty much put the stamp on it that it's over.”

Kuzak, a law enforcement veteran of more than 20 years, said he's not surprised Rivera called himself a victim.

“If he sees himself as a victim, he needs to spend some time talking to me,” Kuzak said. “I'd gladly sit face to face to talk with him. I think probably until the last of my days I look forward to that ... He and I will have our day.”

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.'s spokesman Mike Manko declined to comment.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media

. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or mdivittorio@tribweb.com.

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