Pa. court denies appeal hearing

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has denied further hearing on an appeal filed by an Altoona man who contended his prison sentence of 10 to 20 years — stemming from a 2015 shooting death — was excessive.

Jorge Luis Gomez III, 38, was convicted by a Blair County jury in September 2016 and sentenced to a lengthy state prison sentence by Blair County President Judge Elizabeth A. Doyle.

He appealed his conviction and sentence to the Superior Court, but last August a three-judge panel rejected defense claims that the sentence was excessive and adopted Doyle’s opinion as its own.

The jury found Gomez guilty of involuntary manslaughter, rejecting the more serious offenses of first-degree murder, third-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.

It also found him guilty of two counts of aggravated assault and one count of carrying a firearm without a license.

Altoona defense attorney Thomas M. Dickey took the appeal to the Superior Court, contesting Doyle’s decision to sentence Gomez to consecutive rather concurrent prison terms for the offenses.

Dickey also stated that the prosecution had failed in its efforts to disprove that Gomez acted in self-defense when he pulled a gun from his waistband and fired several shots at Kai Carter, 29, of Altoona, who along with Gomez, was attending a party at a home on the 100 block of South Eighth Street to watch the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao boxing match on May 2, 2015.

According to the testimony in the five-day trial, Gomez and Carter didn’t get along.

At the party, Gomez claimed, all Carter wanted to do was fight him.

He claimed he “could feel the tension, like animosity,” between the two of them.

As the evening was winding down, the two ended up together on the back porch of the home where, Gomez stated, Carter punched him in the face.

Gomez, according to the testimony, pulled his gun and chambered a bullet.

During the trial, Gomez said Carter rushed him again and he fired several shots, one striking the femoral artery in Carter’s leg.

Carter fled the home but died a short distance away because of his loss of blood.

Doyle stated in her opinion that the case was an example of how an impulsive act with a gun can destroy multiple lives.

She upheld the involuntary manslaughter conviction by pointing out there was sufficient evidence produced during the trial that Gomez could have avoided the use of deadly force by leaving the porch area and retreating to the nearby alley.

The judge also defended her sentence, which the defense contended was “unreasonable,” by stating she considered the safety of the public, the impact on the victim and the community, and Gomez’s rehabilitative needs when imposing the jail term.

Doyle pointed out the gun Gomez used was purchased in South Carolina and was unlicensed in Pennsy­lvania.

The Supreme Court has the option not to hear a request for review, and it issued an order last week denying further hearing.

During the sentencing hearing in December 2016, Gomez told Doyle he did not mean to hurt Carter and stated the shooting was hard on his family. He asked for forgiveness from Carter’s mother.

Gomez is incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill.