Judge rejects plea deal after Shamokin defendant's courtroom rant
SUNBURY - Northumberland County President Judge William H. Wiest was ready Monday afternoon to accept a plea and sentence a Shamokin man charged last year with threatening to kill police officers and smashing out windows on a police cruiser en route to prison.
But when Daniel Robert Gustitus, 55, began challenging the allegations leveled against him and began rambling about his arrest, Wiest rejected the plea agreement and ordered the defendant returned to a holding cell at the courthouse.
Gustitus, who admitted to suffering from mental health problems and being bi-polar, claimed he wasn't intoxicated when he was arrested March 12, 2013, for various disturbances that began outside his home at 28 N. Rock St.
Wiest, who earlier in the proceeding told Gustitus he was being given a "sweet deal" in respect to his plea agreement with the district attorney's office, became frustrated when the defendant interrupted him.
When Gustitus denied being intoxicated after assistant district attorney William Cole read off the charges and recounted the incidents, Wiest said, "That's it. I've taken all I'm going to take from you. I'm done with you."
Wiest then instructed deputy sheriff Henry Schrader to return Gustitus to a holding cell on the first floor to await transport back to Northumberland County Prison. On his way out of the courtroom, Gustitus stated, "I apologize your honor."
Special conflicts counsel Sue Schwartz, who represents Gustitus, was seen shaking her head when her client left the courtroom. Schwartz was frustrated by her client's behavior and was looking forward to resolving the case.
She said Gustitus was scheduled to plead guilty to terroristic threats and criminal mischief and receive a standard range sentence of 3 to 14 months in state prison. She said her client was sentenced to 1 to 2 years at SCI-Chester after his probation was revoked due to the charges filed in the Shamokin disturbances. Gustitus was incarcerated at SCI-Chester prior to being moved Feb. 26 to Northumberland County Prison to await sentencing.
At his March 19, 2013, arraignment before Magisterial District Judge John Gembic III on charges filed by Shamokin Patrolman Raymond Siko II, Gustitus criticized the arresting officer, declared himself "God's undeserving son" and claimed his criminal acts were prompted by his wife's serious illness.
Gustitus was charged with multiple offenses, including felonies of aggravated assault and aggravated harassment by a prisoner.
The defendant, a U.S. Air Force veteran who was removed from the county's veterans court following his arrest, previously admitted to committing some of the offenses he was charged with, but denied assaulting anyone.
In addition to the felonies, Gustitus was charged with misdemeanors of criminal mischief, institutional vandalism and disorderly conduct (two counts) relating to incidents that began around 4:15 a.m.
Gustitus, who was wearing only a pair of jeans and socks when the disturbances began, yelled at police numerous times and resisted arrest several times. He allegedly threatened to kill Siko, Cpl. Bryan Primerano, Special Officer II Norman Lukoskie and two Sunbury police officers who assisted after the defendant kicked out the rear windows on a police cruiser along Route 61 near Sunbury while en route to the county jail, causing more than $1,000 in damage. The defendant also is accused of spitting at officers, who had to place a spit hood over his head.