ShareThis Page
News

Man says divorce triggered threat

| Friday, May 4, 2012, 9:41 a.m.

A wheelchair-bound Hempfield Township man charged with threatening to kill a Westmoreland County judge said he was lashing out because of a frustrating divorce.

Samuel H. Shoemaker, 48, was scheduled to appear before District Judge James E. Albert, of Greensburg, on Thursday to answer to charges of terroristic threats and retaliation against a judicial official.

Lawyers on both sides met throughout the day to discuss a plea bargain. Assistant District Attorney Pete Flanigan said he couldn't comment on an arrangement. Defense lawyer Dennis Rafferty said no deal had been made, but that the defendant waived his right to a preliminary hearing, meaning it will continue in county court at a later date.

According to county detectives, Shoemaker threatened family court Judge John Driscoll numerous times during a paternity hearing on April 18.

"I'm going to kill the (expletive). I'm going to kill the judge. He is going to deny the petition," Shoemaker told Deputy Sheriff Tommy Wynkoop, according to court papers. Wynkoop told Shoemaker to calm down, but the talk continued. When Wynkoop said he was going to write a report on the comments, Shoemaker allegedly said, "That's OK, if I ever see this man out in the street, I'm going to break his neck with these two hands."

Shoemaker's arrest affidavit states he also made threatening remarks about Driscoll to his divorce lawyer, Amy Cunningham, who told him to stop. Later, Shoemaker directed more threats toward Driscoll while riding with Cunningham in the courthouse elevator, court papers say.

Shoemaker was left disabled after being badly burned in a trucking accident in 1994. He said he thinks the charges should be withdrawn because he was only venting his frustration with divorce court and that he isn't a threat.

"This is as high as I can raise my arm," he said, holding his left arm about shoulder-height. "Do you think I'd be able to break your neck?"

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.

click me