A blog of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section

By Burt Rose

The Superior Court of Pennsylvania has decided the case of COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania v. Gary E. PRISK, Appellant, No. 846 MDA 2010, 2011 WL 281097, 2011 PA Super 22 (Jan. 28, 201). This was an appeal from a Judgment of Sentence in the Court of Common Pleas of Centre County, Criminal No. CP-14-CR-0001043-2008. The Panel was composed of Judges STEVENS, GANTMAN, and FITZGERALD. Judge Gantman wrote the Opinion, while Judge Fitzgerald dissented.

A jury found the Appellant guilty of 314 separate offenses. These offenses stemmed from Appellant’s systematic sexual abuse of his stepdaughter, which occurred on an almost daily basis over the course of six years, from ages 10 to 16. The Appellant raped and sexually assaulted the victim; if the victim disobeyed the Appellant’s commands, he would physically abuse her.

The lower court sentenced the Appellant to an aggregate term of 633 to 1500 years’ imprisonment. On appeal, the Appellant asserted his aggregate sentence was manifestly excessive and unreasonable, because the court imposed consecutive sentences for some of his convictions. Judge Gantman ruled that the aggregate sentence was not excessive in light of this criminal conduct. In dissent, Judge Fitzgerald wrote that the Appellant’s aggregate sentence of 633 to 1,500 years’ imprisonment was manifestly excessive: “I would find that the trial court could have achieved the policies of section 9721(b) without imposing a minimum sentence that is more than six times a person’s natural lifetime, which I find is manifestly excessive and clearly unreasonable. See 42 Pa .C.S. § 9781(c)(2).”

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