Court upholds inmate’s sentence

Johnstown man must serve 16 to 48 months

A prison sentence of 16 to 48 months imposed by a Cambria County judge on a Johnstown man with a “massive” prior criminal record has been upheld by the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

The state appeals court rejected the appeal filed by William David Sirbaugh, Jr., 42, who entered a negotiated plea on April 23, 2018, to charges of receiving stolen property, unsworn falsification and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Through his attorney, Gary Francis Vitko, Sirbaugh contended the sentence imposed by Judge Tamara R. Bernstein was excessive and that the judge failed to consider his need for drug treatment when levying the sentence.

A three-judge panel of the Superior Court, including Judges Jack A. Panella, Caroyln H. Nichols and Gene Strassburger, pointed out that Bernstein recognized Sirbaugh’s struggles with drug addiction, and acknowledged these struggles when she imposed a prison sentence that was consecutive to a state prison sentence Sirbaugh was already serving.

The trial court stated that it read Sirbaugh’s “presentence investigation, and took special note of (his) ‘massive'” prior record, the Superior Court stated.

Bernstein also repeatedly mentioned “extensive consideration of (his) drug problem,” according to the seven-page opinion.

Sirbaugh received the prison sentence after pleading to separate offenses on March 23, 2017.

The most serious charge was for receiving stolen property, which included selling multiple brass vases stolen from a Cambria County cemetery. The vases were sold for scrap metal.

He was also charged with unsworn falsification after submitting forged prescriptions to his probation officer who was concerned because Sirbaugh had tested positive on drug tests.

The third charge involved in the appeal was his possession of drug paraphernalia.

Sirbaugh was sentenced to 14 to 36 months behind bars for receiving stolen property, two to 12 months for the false prescriptions and 12 months’ probation for possession of drug paraphernalia.

The Superior Court panel ruled Sirbaugh, by contending the judge in her sentence ignored his drug problem, had raised a “substantial question” for court review.

According to the Superior Court, Sirbaugh “believed the (trial) court imposed an unduly harsh consecutive sentence and failed to consider his need for drug rehabilitation. That claim, however, is belied by the record,” the Superior Court opinion concluded.