The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

February 28, 2014

Coach attacker must get help after paroled

By Joe Wiercinski
Herald Staff Writer

SHARON — The man who attacked his high school football coach on a Sunday afternoon last summer was returned to jail Thursday after hearing terms of his sentence. It includes an order to seek mental health treatment when he is paroled and keeps him under court supervision for 13 years.

Joseph K. Koscinski, 39, apologized and his attorney asked unsuccessfully for house arrest instead of more time in jail that was ordered by Mercer County Common Pleas President Judge Thomas R. Dobson.

“Joe has had serious mental health problems but before this he had no history of assaultive behavior and he has no prior criminal history,” said his attorney, Randall T. Hetrick of Mercer. “He was off his medications and said he was hearing voices.”

Jumping off a railroad trestle during his college years caused a closed head injury and Koscinski has had mental health problems since then, Hetrick said.

Koscinski, who had played football on Sharon teams in 1992-93, broke through the storm door of Jim Wildman’s home Aug. 11.

He attacked Wildman in the entry way and the struggle continued into the living room where Koscinski choked and punched Wildman and bit off part of his ear.

Wildman’s neighbors, David and Douglas LeMon, heard screaming and shouting and ran into the house to stop the attack. Sharon police Lt. Gerald Smith also ran over from his nearby home after hearing the noise and held Koscinski until other police arrived and he was taken into custody.

Koscinski has been held in Mercer County Jail since Aug. 16.

Arguing that “it’s hard to punish someone who is mentally ill,” Hetrick asked Dobson to opt for intensive mental health treatment and house arrest with electronic monitoring instead of continued incarceration.

Betty and Karol Koscinski, who were in court as they have been at every step of the prosecution of their son, “have done everything they could do to set up a program that meets his treatment needs,” Hetrick said. He added they have done all they could to help him since his injury.

“He will have people to monitor his medication and to see that he follows through with his counseling and treatment,” Hetrick said.

Koscinski apologized and expressed remorse when Dobson gave him an opportunity to speak.

“I apologize to Mr. Wildman and his family for the trouble they had because of what I did,” Koscinski said. “I realize how important it is to continue with the mental health treatment that is available to me.”

At a hearing in January, Koscinski entered an Alford plea to felony charges of aggravated assault and burglary. He told Dobson he didn’t remember much about the attack.

Treated by the court as a guilty plea, an Alford plea 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.

Prosecutors dropped a second burglary count and charges of recklessly endangering another person and making terroristic threats as part of the plea bargain.

Hetrick 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 at sentencing.

On the aggravated assault charge, Dobson sentenced Koscinski to 1 year less one day to 2 years less one day in jail. A maximum local sentence allows an inmate to serve time in Mercer County Jail instead of a state prison.

Dobson ordered $500 in restitution to Wildman and gave Koscinski credit for the 196 days he has served in jail since his arrest. Dobson said he could be paroled Aug. 14 after serving the minimum sentence.

Koscinski will be on probation for 11 years after his 2 years of jail incarceration and parole are completed, Dobson said.

On the burglary charge, Dobson ordered Koscinski to pay $2,005 restitution to Wildman’s insurance company and ordered jail and probation sentences to run concurrently with his sentence for assault.

He also ordered Koscinski to continue mental health treatment, emphasizing that he will be under court control long after he gets out of jail.

“If you go off your meds, I will have to put you in the penitentiary, Dobson said. “I have no other options.”