HOLLIDAYSBURG - Former Altoona police officer Duane "D.J." Eichenlaub will report to the Blair County Prison on June 14 to begin serving an 111/2-23 month sentence for assaulting two men at Pellegrine's Lounge three years ago, and then conspiring with a fellow officer to cover up his involvement in the fight.
His jail sentence will be followed by three years' probation.
Another former city police officer, Eric Kriner, now of Brockport, was sentenced earlier this year to four years' probation for his part in the same incident, the difference being that Eichenlaub, 30, not only attacked the man who improperly touched his wife but also hit an older man, Earl P. Eshelman, 60, who was trying to break up the fight in the men's restroom.
"The life I once led has been viciously taken from me," said Eshelman, speaking to Judge Timothy M. Sullivan on Tuesday at Eichenlaub's sentencing.
Eshelman said he loved to go to the gym, attend sporting events and give blood, but the extensive injuries to his face and left eye are so serious he can no longer do those things.
He said the injuries that still cause him dizziness, short-term memory loss and anxiety are permanent and that he could eventually lose sight in his left eye.
Eshelman said he has had to pay $22,000 of his own money for ongoing medical treatment, and he said he can no longer hold a job.
"I am very frustrated, angry and depressed as to what my life has become because of this man. I ask his punishment be to the fullest extent of the law," Eshelman said to Sullivan.
While Eichenlaub received a substantial jail term, his sentence was a year below the mitigated range of the Pennsylvania sentencing guidelines.
He was convicted by a Blair County jury in January of a first-degree felony - aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury. The standard range of the guidelines calls for a minimum of 36 months behind bars. Even the mitigated range calls for a 24-month minimum.
Sullivan, in his sentencing statement, said he put "great weight" on several factors surrounding the May 30, 2010, incident.
Eichenlaub has no prior record. He served in the Army in Iraq and was a police officer for five years. Since the criminal charges were filed, he has earned an associate degree from Penn State Altoona; worked in construction; and has suffered greatly because he lost his job, his home and his reputation. He also has filed for bankruptcy.
The judge blamed Herman "Bo" Lardieri, the man who improperly touched Eichenlaub's wife, Adrienne, for the incident, stating Eichenlaub "reacted to defend his wife's honor."
"We place greater weight on all that Mr. Eichenlaub has accomplished in his 30 years of living, rather than the brief time frame surrounding the incident ... when Mr. Eichenlaub demonstrated a serious lapse of judgment fueled by his understandable anger/outrage that his wife was violated sexually, and further compounded by his consumption of alcohol while celebrating a wedding with friends," Sullivan said.
He said Eichenlaub took the law into his own hands, inflicted serious bodily harm to Eshelman and took steps to cover up the incident.
"We recognize that our community needs to have confidence and trust in our judicial system and in our law enforcement officers. Therefore, there needs to be some punitive aspect to our sentence," Sullivan said.
Eichenlaub's Harrisburg attorney, Timothy Barrouk, said he thought the sentence was appropriate and he attributed statements by Eichenlaub's family as playing a big part in helping the judge make a decision.
Thirty-five friends and relatives sent Sullivan letters, including a cousin, Brittany Klos of Arlington, Va., who stated, "The possible incarceration of D.J. is a most difficult and truly heart-wrenching time for our family. ... He's a genuine stand-up guy. ... Any man would have done the same if they were in his situation. ... The outcome of this has been nothing but unfair to D.J., who doesn't deserve this."
Heather Sapienza of Altoona described Eichenlaub as a "kind loving uncle to my two daughters."
Four spoke on Eichenlaub's behalf Tuesday, including his mother, Irene; his mother-in-law, Linda Weyandt; his wife, Adrienne; and a brother-in-law, Brian Starr.
His mother said Eichenlaub as a child was kind, taking meals to a disabled aunt who called him her "meals on wheels."
"My son is not a criminal," said his mother. She said he was a "very caring, loving, responsible, protective person who always seems to be there for us."
He has taken hold of his life since the fracas, said Weyandt, who called her son-in-law "truly a gift."
Adrienne Eichenlaub said to the judge, "I remain steadfast to our marriage. ... We refuse to let this define our life."
Starr said Eichenlaub was like a little brother to him and said he showed his character in going to Iraq.
Deputy Attorney General Christopher Jones called the "whole thing extremely sad."
He said the case is sad for Eichenlaub's family, but he also said that while Eichenlaub's life before and after the fight may be admirable, what he did on Memorial Day 2010, was not.
Jones said that the anguish expressed by Adrienne Eichenlaub about what has happened to their lives could have been prevented had Eichenlaub done the right thing the night of incident, rather than attempt a cover-up.
Barrouk has indicated he will appeal the aggravated assault finding of the jury.
The prosecution could file an appeal, because Sullivan's sentence was below the mitigated range of the sentencing guidelines, but Jones said that would be something higher-ups in the Attorney General's Office would have to consider.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.