No. 80-1-181, Appeal from Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County, Criminal Division, imposed September 24, 1980, at Nos. 204 and 205 of 1980.
Harry E. Knafelc, Beaver, for appellant.
Edward J. Tocci, Dist. Atty., John Lee Brown, Jr., Asst. Dist. Atty., Beaver, for appellee.
O'Brien, C. J., and Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott and Hutchinson, JJ.
In the early morning hours of March 16, 1980, appellant George Townsend, then eighteen years old, entered the bar of the Darlington Hotel in Beaver County with a friend. The two had been drinking throughout the evening. When they became separated, appellant left the hotel and returned with a rifle in search of his friend. Appellant fired two shots into the ceiling, at which point some patrons of the bar attempted to disarm him. Appellant then fired the rifle a third time, killing one man and wounding another.
Appellant initially entered a plea of not guilty to charges of criminal homicide and aggravated assault. However, before the case could proceed to trial, appellant agreed to enter a plea of nolo contendere to murder of the third degree, in return for which the Commonwealth agreed that the assault charge would be nol prossed and that the maximum penalty for the murder charge would not be sought.
On September 24, 1980, the Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County sentenced appellant to a term of five to fifteen years' imprisonment, indicating its desire that the sentence be served at the Camp Hill Correctional Facility. Appellant's sole contention on this direct appeal is that the sentence imposed was manifestly excessive. As we find the sentence to have been well within the court's discretion, we affirm.*fn1
As this Court stated in Commonwealth v. Edrington, 490 Pa. 251, 255-56, 416 A.2d 455, 457 (1980),
"[o]ur review of challenges to sentencing for murder of the third degree follows precisely those general guidelines we have developed in recent cases and which the Legislature has prescribed in the Sentencing Code (18 Pa.C.S. § 1301 et seq.). Commonwealth v. Knight, 479 Pa. 209, 387 A.2d 1297 (1978). Thus, as our cases and as the Code make clear, proper sentencing is a matter vested in the sound discretion of the trial court, whose determination must not be disturbed absent a manifest abuse of discretion. Commonwealth v. Martin, 466 Pa. 118, 351 A.2d 650 (1976); Commonwealth v. Lee, 450 Pa. 152, 299 A.2d 640 (1973). Nevertheless, in exercising its discretion the sentencing court must not overlook pertinent facts, disregard the force of evidence or commit an error of law. Nor may it impose a sentence exceeding that prescribed by statute. In addition, the trial court must examine the circumstances of the crime and the individual background of the defendant. For the sentence imposed must be the minimum punishment consistent with the protection of the public, the gravity of the ...