Man convicted in friend's fatal shooting

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A North Versailles man offered long before trial this week to plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter for the shooting death of his friend last April in Wilmerding.

But the prosecutor wouldn't accept the deal and took the case to trial, attempting to win a verdict on third-degree murder.

"We were comfortable and confident moving forward with the evidence we had," said Mike Manko, a spokesman with the Allegheny County district attorney's office.

In the end, Common Pleas Judge Kevin G. Sasinoski wouldn't allow the murder count to even be deliberated by the jury. And on Friday, that same panel found Seth Dillon, 21, guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Shawn Januck, 18, of Wilmerding. He will be sentenced on May 23.

Defense attorney Patrick Thomassey said he will ask for his client to be sentenced to house arrest. The maximum penalty on the misdemeanor charge is 21/2 to 5 years in prison.

"This outcome, I'm satisfied with it," Mr. Thomassey said. "That's what I thought it was."

Mr. Dillon had purchased a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun the day after his 21st birthday last March, and several days later, on April 6, he decided to take it to a friend's home to show it off.

He and Mr. Januck were both visiting two brothers on Lydia Street. He put the gun on the kitchen table and left the home for about 20 minutes. When he returned, he picked up the gun, which he said he didn't know was loaded, and it discharged, striking Mr. Januck in the face. He died instantly. The defendant said it was an accident.

Witnesses for the prosecution said there was no argument or problem of any kind between Mr. Dillon and the victim that evening. The witnesses also told detectives they thought the shooting was accidental.

During his closing argument Friday morning, Mr. Thomassey told the jury that the shooting was an accident.

"Just because there's a tragedy, just because somebody is dead, doesn't make it a crime," he said. "It just doesn't. And it's hard."

But assistant district attorney Edward Scheid told the jury that the defendant's actions were criminal.

"Mr. Dillon and his actions were so reckless that he ignored the danger that he created," Mr. Scheid said.

neigh_east

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


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