Wilkinsburg boxing gym owner appeals sentence in killing of 17-year-old

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An attorney for a local boxing gym owner told the state Superior Court on Tuesday the prosecution failed to show her client was not acting in self-defense when he shot and killed a 17-year-old boy four years ago.

Donald Scott, 49, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault after he fired a gun into a crowd Nov. 23 outside a Wilkinsburg boxing gym he owned.

Derrick House was struck in the back of the head and killed. Another boy, 15, was hit in the leg.

Scott was sentenced to a total of 10 to 20 years in prison by Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Randal B. Todd.

At trial, Scott claimed he fired the weapon in self-defense after a group of at least 20 teens attacked him outside his building.

"The commonwealth failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Scott was not justified," said Wendy Williams, his attorney, during oral argument before a three-judge panel.

Earlier in the evening, a birthday party was being held for children aged 11 to 14 in the basement of Scott's building. Trouble began, Ms. Williams said, when a group of older boys attempted to get in to the party.

A glass table was shattered and several fights broke out, she said.

Ms. Williams told the panel her client called the police twice, but they didn't arrive until the shooting.

Scott was attempting to get away and get to his car when, Ms. Williams said, her client took the gun off of someone in the crowd and began firing in the direction of his attackers.

"Looking at the circumstances of the whole evening, Mr. Scott was acting to protect himself," Ms. Williams said.

"He's a peacemaker. The attacks went on for over an hour. At the end, he was trying to retreat."

The prosecution had one witness at trial who said Scott retrieved the gun from his car, but Ms. Williams characterized her as not credible.

Ms. Williams also argued that the sentence of 10 to 20 years was extensive, especially given Scott's background as a Marine, his lack of criminal history and character testimony at trial.

"A man is dead," responded Superior Court Judge John T. Bender.

"One of his attackers, yes," Ms. Williams answered.

Assistant District Attorney Frank Nepa, who argued for the prosecution, dismissed Scott's claims, saying that Ms. Williams' characterization of the attack on the man was not accurate.

"To suggest he was being beaten severely is inaccurate," he said. Mr. Nepa did agree, though, that Scott was surrounded by 15 people.

"He got to his car. He got in his car and reached for a gun," Mr. Nepa said. "Instead of letting them flee, he fired the gun."

That Scott fled the scene afterward, the prosecutor said, does not support his claim. "It's clear the commonwealth disproved self-defense. Any threat had passed at the time [Scott] fired his gun."

Superior Court Judge Christine Donohue offered concern about the case.

"It's a troubling case to the extent this gentleman tried to do everything right throughout the evening," she said.


Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620.


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