Ford City man pleads guilty in beating death
A 28-year-old Ford City man, who is one of four men accused in the beating death of a Chicora man last year, wept in an Armstrong County courtroom on Thursday while pleading guilty to crimes stemming from that case.
Dennis Andrew Rosenberger had been on house arrest since April 2013 on charges that included criminal homicide, aggravated assault and involuntary manslaughter for his participation in the fatal assault of James Peter Sullivan, 39, outside the Wick City Saloon in March of that year.
According to court documents — read aloud by Assistant District Attorney Chase McClister — Rosenberger had been outside the bar, where a large group of people were assembled — including Sullivan. Rosenberger rushed at Sullivan, struck him in the face, knocked him backward and fractured the victim's skull.
“Which contributed to his ultimate death,” McClister said.
However, Gregory W. Swank, Rosenberger's defense attorney, said that according to forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht, an autopsy concluded that Sullivan had died from a ruptured artery in his torso and not from the initial blow to his head, which rendered him unconscious.
“The allegation is that the others kicked him while he was unconscious,” Swank said outside the courtroom after the hearing.
The other men accused in the death of Sullivan are Keith Allen Brison, 34, of Kittanning; Anthony Michael Bove, 20, of Kittanning; and Otilio Cosme, 44, of Ford City. All three men are facing felony charges of criminal homicide and aggravated assault, as well as lesser charges of simple assault and reckless endangerment. Bove and Brison are scheduled to stand trial in September. No trial date has been scheduled for Cosme.
Rosenberger was quiet and composed when he sat before President Judge Kenneth Valasek wearing a blue shirt and tie, appearing ready to plead guilty to one felony charge of aggravated assault and one count of involuntary manslaughter — a misdemeanor.
But proceedings were delayed when he told the judge he didn't fully understand the plea agreement.
Swank told the judge that sometime before the hearing, he had read each question from the plea agreement out loud to Rosenberger.
“He has some difficulty with reading,” Swank said.
Judge Valasek asked Rosenberger: “Did you understand everything in the plea agreement? Is there any part you didn't understand?
“Not any of it,” Rosenberger said.
His hearing was delayed close to two hours before the judge had time to resume the case and ask Rosenberger specific questions from the plea questionnaire.
“These charges arise from an incident in Kittanning Borough on March 17, 2013, in which James Sullivan was killed — do you understand that?”
“Yes,” Rosenberger said, looking intently at the judge.
“Involuntary manslaughter involves kicking, punching, assaulting — beating up someone in a very careless act that causes the death of someone. Do you understand that?”
“Mr. Sullivan died because he was seriously injured — do you understand that?” Judge Valasek asked Rosenberger.
His answer was echoed by a member of the victim's family seated near the front of the courtroom.
“You know you don't have to admit anything to me and have the right to a trial,” Valasek said.
“Yes,” Rosenberger said, before he broke down and began to weep.
Valasek accepted Rosenberger's plea and will sentence him in September.
Swank said Rosenberger faces a minimum of 36 to 42 months in jail, but could face a maximum of seven years for the aggravated assault charge, which is a felony.
Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Grants boost tunnel, trail work in Clarion and Armstrong counties
- Ford City joining growing fight against blight
- VA seeks input on services at Ford City clinic
- Ford City man arrested for making video of parking dispute
- Valley Township couple goes all out for Halloween
- Progressive Workshop open houses Thursday in Kittanning, Rayburn
- Drivers concerned with changes at Kittanning intersection
- Teen charged with threatening stepfather at Boggs home
- Grants awarded for recreational spots in Ford City, East Franklin
- Ford City official: Rift at heart of records request
- Ford City native jazzing it up at big name festival in Florida