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A century in jail is just about right

Published September 07. 2018 12:32PM

I am not a subscriber to the biblical injunction of “an eye for an eye,” but when it comes to gunning down a police officer, I have no problem with “locking ’em up and throwing away the key.”

That’s why the public and I were quite satisfied with the up-to-110-year sentence imposed late last month on Daniel Clary, 23, of Effort, Monroe County, who was convicted of critically wounding Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. Seth Kelly, 40.

Kelly came oh-so-close to losing his life. It could have very easily gone the other way.

Neither I nor the jury was buying Clary’s self-defense argument, and it took the 12-member panel less than two hours to bring back a guilty verdict.

I back Kelly’s comment during Clary’s sentencing, “I pray you never get released from prison.”

Clary shot Kelly four times last Nov. 7 after Clary was pulled over on Route 33 in Plainfield Township, Northampton County, for speeding, then failed a field sobriety test. Kelly nearly bled out from a severed femoral artery after being shot. Thanks to his quick thinking, he used a tourniquet to save his life. Still, Kelly spent nearly two weeks in a medically induced coma and was hospitalized for weeks, undergoing painful treatment and rehabilitation.

A few moments before the shooting, Clary had broken free of the two troopers who tried to restrain him with stun guns and physical force. Using the dashcam to time the incident, it took a minute and six seconds for troopers to try to make the arrest, while the gunbattle lasted 41 seconds.

During that time, trooper Ryan Seiple, who was the responding officer, used his Taser on Clary twice and punched him five times, and Kelly used his Taser on Clary five times, threw nine punches and kneed him once. Still, Clary would not submit to arrest, then took the episode to the next, dangerous level.

Clary fired all six of his gun’s bullets; Kelly, who was backing up Seiple, fired 21 rounds, and Seiple fired 20 rounds.

Clary was hospitalized for five days with bullet wounds, including one to the head. He drove himself to Easton Hospital after speeding away from the scene.

During Clary’s trial, his attorney attempted a self-defense strategy, claiming that state police opened fire first, but this testimony was refuted by the state police vehicle’s dashboard camera, which showed trooper Seiple and Clary firing almost simultaneously after Clary had run to his car to get a gun.

His attorney also said her client was a “scared young man,” who was getting his first speeding ticket. He panicked and feared for his life, she said, when police attempted to handcuff him then shocked him with Tasers and punched him repeatedly. He thought he was going to be shot, she said.

All he had to do was to follow police instructions and submit to arrest, but Clary was having none of it. Suspects facing arrest are often willing to do anything to avoid jail time, and officers face the greatest danger when attempting to take them into custody.

After an investigation, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli said no charges would be filed against the two troopers

Clary not only put the two state troopers in mortal danger; there were cars whizzing by on busy Route 33. Fortunately, none of them was hit by the gunfire, and there were no other injuries aside from some minor scrapes and bruises that Seiple suffered in the scuffle with Clary.

This case underscores once again the dangers of police work and the fact that suspects today can be super deadly. Police are asked to make split-second decisions in life-or-death situations.

Is it any wonder then that they are frustrated when the public slices, dices and second guesses these decisions over a period of days, weeks, even months? That’s not to say that there are no bad calls by police, but, by and large, their training pays off in allowing them to make sound and reasonable decisions in the face of intense, pressure-packed situations the majority of the time.

And when suspects such as Clary resist being taken into custody, then claim they feared for their lives and open fire on police, the job really becomes scary and unpredictable.

Since the establishment of the Pennsylvania State Police in 1905, 104 troopers have lost their lives in the line of duty.

By Bruce Frassinelli |

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