A 60-year-old Tripoli man who held several law enforcement agencies at bay by threatening to blow up a residence on Clifford Road April 19, 2017 in the town of Lynne was sentenced Friday to three years in prison.
Kenneth S. Welsh drew a prison sentence from Branch II Judge Michael Bloom, despite a plea agreement between district attorney Michael Schiek and defense attorney Rodman Streicher recommending probation with some time in jail.
Welsh was charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide, a class B felony, attempted first-degree reckless injury, a class D felony, and the misdemeanors of possession of a firearm while intoxicated and misdemeanor battery (domestic abuse) in the incident.
As part of the plea agreement, the first count was amended to first-degree recklessly endangering safety, and the last charge was amended to operating a firearm while intoxicated, to which he pled no contest. The other two charges were dismissed in exchange for his no contest pleas.
According to the criminal complaint, Welsh's wife Mary Butler called 9-1-1 at approximately 11:20 a.m. April 19. She said she had shot her husband "through the shoulder" and that he was now threatening to blow up the house "if anyone showed up at the residence." When law enforcement arrived, she told them there had been a confrontation, there had been a struggle over a gun inside of the residence and that she had shot Mr. Welsh. As she was leaving the residence to back out of the driveway, Welsh had shot at her.
She told deputies that he was distraught after receiving a notice that they were losing their house.
Butler was the only witness to testify at the sentencing hearing Friday. She denied that she was a victim in the incident and pleaded with Bloom to go along with the plea agreement. She also said that there were numerous inconsistencies in the police report that was attached to the original criminal complaint. Welsh made the same assertion in a letter to both Bloom and Schiek a couple of days before the hearing.
"I do know Ken did not disconnect the gas," she said from the witness stand. "I went to turn on the furnace later (the day of the incident) and it started right up."
Due to the family's continued financial problems and her health concerns, she wants her husband home, she added. She also said that her husband had never done anything violent to her in the past.
"He's a good man, he would never hurt anyone," Butler said. "I'm not afraid of him. I've never been afraid of him."
While sticking to the terms of the plea agreement and not asking for more than nine to 12 months in jail with credit for time served and five years probation, Schiek did not downplay the seriousness of Welsh's crimes. He also said that Butler's lack of cooperation made it difficult to prosecute the case.
In his closing statement, the prosecutor recounted the events leading up to the Special Response Team having to use bean bag rounds to subdue Welsh. He also said that one point Welsh shot a clock and a smoke detector inside the house, then shot at Butler as she was backing away from the house in their car.
"It's not a fluke, judge, it was a violent domestic incident," Schiek said. "It's very fortunate that this didn't end in a tragedy."
Streicher pointed out that his client had only a possession of THC charge from many, many years ago on his criminal record. He said Welsh has a drinking problem along with stress and anger issues that all were made worse by the situation involving the family home. Streicher recommended probation and counseling and argued the 262 days Welsh had already served was ample punishment for his crime.
"I don't believe that Mr. Welsh is not safe to put back into the community," Streicher said, asking for the same sentence Schiek had advocated.
"This is absolutely a probation case," Streicher added.
Given his chance tp speak, Welsh made a short statement apologizing for his actions.
Before handing down his sentence, Bloom said that he had little doubt that Welsh was not a threat to the community, but took issue with him saying his actions were exaggerated in the police report. He repeatedly reminded Welsh that he shot at his wife as she was backing out of the driveway, and dismissed his claim that he was only trying to disable the vehicle.
"I'm not mechanic, but I know you don't disable a vehicle by shooting it in the windshield," Bloom said. "You disable a vehicle by shooting it in the engine block or the tires."
The judge kept returning to this part of the incident, along with the threat to blow up the house, and concluded he could not hand down a light sentence as that would send the wrong message to the community.
"Your conduct was far to grave, far too serious, in my judgment, to warrant probation," Bloom said.
After Bloom sentenced Welsh to the prison sentence, to be followed by two years extended supervision, Butler started crying, and Welsh pleaded with Bloom to defer entry of judgment in a last ditch effort to gain probation.
"I think the evidence is stacked a little against me," Welsh said.
"That request, is denied," Bloom replied before leaving the bench and ending the hearing.`
Welsh was given credit for the time he sat in jail on a $40,000 cash bond during the proceedings.
Jamie Taylor may be reached at email@example.com.
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