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Westmoreland

Jeannette 'selfie' killer appeals sentence

Rich Cholodofsky
| Tuesday, May 23, 2017, 5:27 p.m.
Westmoreland County Sheriff's escort Maxwell Morton, 18, of Jeannette, the 'Selfie' killer, out of holding, after his sentencing hearing, at the Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg, on Monday, May 15, 2017. Common Pleas Court Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio sentenced Morton to serve 15 to 30 years in prison for the Feb. 4, 2015, shooting of 16-year-old Ryan Mangan.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Westmoreland County Sheriff's escort Maxwell Morton, 18, of Jeannette, the 'Selfie' killer, out of holding, after his sentencing hearing, at the Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg, on Monday, May 15, 2017. Common Pleas Court Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio sentenced Morton to serve 15 to 30 years in prison for the Feb. 4, 2015, shooting of 16-year-old Ryan Mangan.
Westmoreland County Sheriff Deputies lead Maxwell Morton, then 16, of Jeannette into a courtroom for a preliminary hearing on homicide charges at the Westmoreland County Courthouse on Wednesday, April 1, 2015.
Evan Sanders | Trib Total Media
Westmoreland County Sheriff Deputies lead Maxwell Morton, then 16, of Jeannette into a courtroom for a preliminary hearing on homicide charges at the Westmoreland County Courthouse on Wednesday, April 1, 2015.

The lawyer for a Jeannette man convicted of taking a “selfie” with his murder victim said Tuesday his client's 30-year prison sentence is too long.

Defense attorney Pat Thomassey filed an appeal asking that Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio impose a lesser sentence than the one she issued last week against Maxwell Morton.

“The court did not give appropriate weight to the defendant's overwhelming remorse and regret regarding the accidental shooting of his friend,” Thomassey wrote.

Morton, 19, was convicted this year of third-degree murder for the Feb. 4, 2015, shooting of 16-year-old Ryan Mangan in the bedroom of his Jeannette home.

Police said the teens were playing with a loaded gun when Mangan was shot under the left eye. During the trial, jurors saw a photograph taken by Morton on his cellphone as he smiled with Mangan's lifeless body slumped in a chair in the background.

Prosecutors said Morton sent that picture via the social media app Snapchat to a friend in Wisconsin.

Morton's actions in shooting Mangan and failing to get him help warranted a first-degree murder finding that could have carried a life prison sentence, the prosecution argued at trial.

The defense contended the fatal shooting was an accident.

Assistant District Attorney Tom Grace last week during a sentencing hearing asked that Morton receive a maximum sentence of up to 40 years in prison.

The judge imposed a sentence of 15 to 30 years.

In the appeal, Thomassey said the judge failed to give appropriate weight to Morton's age and other mitigating circumstances and that the sentence imposed was unduly harsh in that it didn't consider his lack of a criminal record, poor critical thinking skills and unfamiliarity with firearms.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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