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Shooter given long jail term

Published October 18. 2011 05:01PM

A Monroe County man, who was convicted by a county jury last July in the shooting of another man in Lower Towamensing Township, was sentenced on Monday to a long state prison term.

Brian James-Paul Hines, 36, of Brodheadsville, was sentenced to serve seven to 14 years in a state prison by Senior Judge John Rufe, of Bucks County and specially presiding in Carbon. The prison term will be followed by four years of state probation.

Hines was convicted on July 20 of shooting Gary Hoffner, 32, in the face during a confrontation that occurred near the victim's home along Lower Smithgap Road. The incident occurred on Nov. 9, 2009.

At the start of the proceeding defense attorney Stephen Vlossak Sr., Palmerton, asked for a continuance. He said he learned last Thursday that Hines had hired another attorney to represent him in the matter. He said he received the presentence investigation (PSI) report from the adult probation office Thursday and called Hines to meet with him at his Palmerton office on Friday. He said Hines told him he hired another attorney and would not meet with him.

Vlossak said he felt the client-attorney relationship with Hines was no longer a good one. He also filed a petition to withdraw as counsel for Hines.

Assistant District Attorney Joseph Matika objected to the continuance. Matika said he learned of Hines' hiring another attorney when contacted by an attorney concerning the pending sentencing. However, Matika said, that attorney never entered his appearance in the case. He added that he felt the late arrival of another attorney was a delaying tactic by Hines. Rufe denied Vlossak's request to withdraw from the case. He also denied Vlossak's request to continue the proceeding so he could meet with Hines and go over the PSI. Rufe said he would give Vlossak time to review the PSI with Hines prior to continuing.

Rufe also said he received a packet of letters from friends and relatives of Hines from the adult probation office and had read all of them.

Vlossak asked Rufe to sentence Hines in the lower end of the standard range. He said Hines had no prior record and based on the letters submitted had "good qualities."

Vlossak called the incident a "reaction type of shooting." He said Hines did not go to Hoffner's residence with the intent of shooting him and added the jury finding him not guilty of attempted homicide supports that contention.

Hines declined to make a statement and did not testify at the trial.

Matika said the jury convicted Hines of very serious charges. He said Hoffner still had bullet fragments in his head from the shooting. He noted that Hoffner was not present for the sentencing and could not be located by the probation office.

The jury convicted Hines of aggravated assault attempting or causing serious bodily injury; aggravated assault-attempting or causing bodily harm with a deadly weapon; simple assault-attempting or causing bodily injury; simple assault-negligently causing bodily injury with a deadly weapon; recklessly endangering another person; and firearms not to be carried without a license.

Rufe sentenced Hines to serve 72 to 144 months on the assault counts and 12 to 24 months on the firearms violation with the terms running consecutively. He rejected a request by Vlossak to run the terms concurrently because the firearms and assaults were part of the same act. Matika countered that Hines had the gun hidden under the front seat of his truck and later used it in shooting Hoffner. He said the possession of the gun was a separate incident.

Testimony at the trial indicated that Hines went to Hoffner's home to accuse him of stealing a space heater from his trailer home. The two men were once friends but that friendship had soured.

After driving by Hoffner's home, Hines was turning around when the victim drove up to him in his vehicle and a confrontation occurred. Hoffner did not have a weapon, testimony revealed.

After the shooting Hines drove away and later admitted throwing the weapon in Lake Mineola in Monroe County. The gun was never found, but another weapon was found in Hines' possession.

The bullet entered Hoffner's right nostril. He was taken to the Palmerton hospital and later transferred to Lehigh Valley Hospital, Salisbury Township. He had to undergo surgery in which his jaw was wired shut for a month.

In addition to the prison term Rufe ordered Hines to supply a DNA sample, have no contact with Hoffner, get a drug and alcohol and mental health evaluations and follow any recommendations for treatment, attend anger management counseling and zero tolerance on D&A use.

Hines, who began the jail term immediately, was given credit for 375 days spent in jail on the charges.

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