SMETHPORT — A history of violent behavior has led to a lengthy prison sentence for a Smethport man accused of assaulting a woman in a remote area for several hours.
The 30- to 60-year prison term also encompasses a conviction of weapon possession in a separate criminal case against Dennis E. York, 56, of Smethport.
York, who was sentenced Thursday in McKean County Court, must register for 15 years as a Tier 1 sex offender, too. He has credit for 253 days of time served.
The hearing began with President Judge John Pavlock explaining that York had refused to sign the required Megan’s Law form.
The paperwork outlines what York is required to do as a registered sex offender, so Pavlock ordered, “You’re going to listen to me while I read it.” The judge had someone bring York a chair to sit in while he spent several minutes detailing the requirements.
Upon finishing the reading, Pavlock offered York more time to talk to his attorney, as “not signing the form could subject you to further criminal prosecution.”
York did not answer right away when Pavlock asked him about what he wanted to do. After a moment, York looked more alert and agreed that he had not signed the form and did want more time to talk about it with his attorney, Doug Garber of the Public Defender’s Office.
Pavlock handled a few other court matters before bringing York back up to receive his sentence.
By then, York had signed the form.
District Attorney Stephanie Vettenburg-Shaffer recommended that York serve at least 25 to 50 years for the assault case, along with a consecutive term of four to five years for the weapons case.
Shaffer discussed the state rule for sentencing someone convicted of multiple crimes of violence. According to her, anyone convicted of two or more crimes of violence before the crime in question faces a minimum of 25 years of imprisonment.
In total, York had been convicted of six crimes of violence from two different incidents prior to the current violent crime, according to Shaffer. She explained that in 1985, he was convicted of crimes including kidnapping three people and committing extortion; then, in 1991, he was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon. Both incidents happened in North Carolina.
She described the assault in North Carolina, saying he beat a woman with a shoes and his fists. “Mr. York beat this woman repeatedly,” she said, noting the woman’s injuries included five fractures in her face. Later in the hearing, Shaffer noted the older assault case was “oddly similar” to the new assault case.
She asserted that the charges York was convicted of in North Carolina are equivalent to charges considered violent crimes in Pennsylvania.
Shaffer then related the current crimes he was being sentenced for on Thursday.
Between Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 in 2015, he took a woman to a remote wooded area in his car, where he “beat her over the course of several hours.” He returned her home and committed indecent assault against her.
Shaffer related that the victim is in constant fear — even with York incarcerated — as he has threatened to have someone hurt the victim if she went to the authorities. The victim believes York “is a dangerous person with no sense of remorse.”
In the other case, he was convicted of possessing a weapon between July 1 and October in 2015.
Garber disagreed with Shaffer’s assertion that she proved the North Carolina charges would count as violent crimes in Pennsylvania. “The commonwealth cited a number of offenses all from North Carolina but didn’t really give any details to why these counts were equivalent,” he said.
Speaking in his own defense, York said he committed the North Carolina crimes 31 years ago. “We’re young and dumb at that point,” he said. A “couple of boys did stupid things on marijuana at the time,” he added.
“Basically, that’s what happened in North Carolina,” according to York. “When it was all said and done, consolidated and took a plea.”
York said he had time to think about what happened in North Carolina and indicated it’s not behavior someone would repeat.
Regarding allegations he possessed a weapon, York said, “I surely didn’t have nothing like that.”
York continued, “I just don’t see how they justify the time the DA (recommended).” With the time that’s passed since the previous convictions, “It’s just ludicrous to bring that back to me at this point.”
In ending, York commented, “This whole situation has been blown seriously out of proportion.”
Answering York’s comments, Pavlock said he wanted to respond first to York’s statement that his older convictions happened too long ago to be considered.
Pavlock disagreed with York’s statement, explaining that when “something horrible happens,” it’s important to learn from the incident so it doesn’t happen again.
“The more something occurs, the more dangerous it is,” said Pavlock. He continued, saying, “I can’t accept ‘that was so long ago.’ That’s not just me, that’s the law.”
According to Pavlock, who heard the trial, York has “not ever taken one ounce of responsibility in this case.” He called the defense “ludicrous,” explaining that it was asserted at trial that York and the victim went out to look at the stars, and she fell down the mountain a couple of times because she was so drunk.
York was found guilty by a jury on April 12 of possession of a firearm prohibited in one case, in the second case to aggravated assault, kidnapping, unlawful restraint, simple assault, indecent assault by forcible compulsion and summary harassment.
He was acquitted of charges of rape and sexual assault.