Jury convicts man of lesser charge in pedestrians fatal beatdown
GERARD SHAFFER JR. cried enough tears to douse a small fire Monday after a Philadelphia jury rejected a third-degree-murder charge against him and instead convicted him of involuntary manslaughter, a lesser crime.
Shaffer, 23, who aspired to be a city firefighter like his late father, Gerard Sr., could face three to 12 months in prison when he is sentenced March 8 by Common Pleas Judge Lillian Ransom.
Shaffer was tried for the April 2010 death of pedestrian Mark Wallace, 54, who slipped into a coma and succumbed to head injuries from a street fight with Shaffer and Gerard Sr., 48, who also was charged but died of a heart attack in December 2011.
Defense attorney James Funt argued during the trial that Shaffer was trying to break up the fight and that his hot-headed and often violent father was responsible for Wallace's death.
"We're gratified that the jury saw this for what it was . . . This was a tragedy born of the abuse of his father," Funt said after leaving court.
"I'm not surprised by the verdict," Funt added. "I don't think anyone could say there was malice here."
Assistant District Attorney Peter Lim argued that Shaffer was responsible for the deadly beating and should be convicted of third-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 to 40 years in prison.
The victim and the two Shaffers crossed paths April 8, 2010, when the victim, who was drunk, walked in front of their vehicle at Knights and Fairdale roads, in the Northeast.
Words were exchanged when Wallace lingered in the road. Gerard Sr. exited the driver's seat, his son got out of the front passenger seat, and they began fighting with Wallace, whose head struck the pavement.
The younger Shaffer already had served six months in jail before making bail, which will count toward his eventual sentence, said Funt, who plans to ask the judge for a nonincarceration sentence.