The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

January 4, 2014

Man pleads guilty to attack on coach

By Joe Wiercinski
Herald Staff Writer

SHARON — The man accused of attacking his high school football coach last summer pleaded guilty Friday to charges of aggravated assault and burglary.

The plea bargain approved by Mercer County Common Pleas Court President Judge Thomas R. Dobson will have Joseph K. Koscinski serving a sentence in the county jail instead of a state prison.

Koscinski, 38, admitted attacking Jim Wildman, 65, Aug. 11 in the Bentley Avenue home of the Sharon Tigers’ head coach.

In a hearing before Mercer County Common Pleas Court President Judge Thomas R. Dobson, lawyers for the prosecution and defense laid out the details of a plea agreement under which Koscinski pleaded guilty to two felony charges in exchange for the dismissal of other counts of burglary, reckless endangering another person and terroristic threats.

Randall T. Hetrick, Koscinski’s defense attorney, and District Attorney Robert G. Kochems negotiated the deal for a “maximum county sentence,” to be followed with mental health treatment and 11 years of probation supervision. Koscinski could not live within 10 miles of Wildman under the agreement.

Dobson said he would consider all of those factors but would not be bound by the residence limitation when he sentences Koscinski.

To support the plea, Kochems said he had the testimony of brothers David and Douglas LeMon, Wildman’s neighbors, who had played football with Koscinski on Sharon teams in 1992-93.

If there were a trial, they could testify that Koscinski asked them and they pointed out that Sunday afternoon where Wildman lived. They also were the first to intervene a few minutes later when they heard screaming and shouting and ran to Wildman’s house where they pulled Koscinski away from his attack.

Kochems said he also had the testimony of Wildman, who described how Koscinski broke through a storm door and attacked him in the entry way. Their struggle continued into the living room where Koscinski choked and punched Wildman and bit off a part of his ear before the LeMons pulled him away and Sharon police Lt. Gerald Smith arrived from his nearby home after hearing the sounds of the attack.

Koscinski told Dobson that he didn’t remember much about the attack but that under Hetrick’s advice he would enter an Alford plea.

Treated by the court as a guilty plea, it allows defendants to resolve charges against them if they believe a jury would find them guilty of a charge if jurors heard the evidence in the case.

Hetrick said he had given consideration to mounting an insanity defense but that Koscinski, whom he found to be mentally competent, would not qualify for such a strategy.

Kochems said aggravated assault has a sentence guideline range of 36 to 54 months and that although it wasn’t binding on the court, he would recommend a county jail sentence of about 2 years.

Koscinski, who has been in jail since Aug. 12, should be given credit for time served when he is sentenced next month, Hetrick said.