Judge rejects call for shorter jail term — (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

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The Philadelphia Inquirer

Posted on Tue, Aug. 24, 2004

By Reid Kanaley, Inquirer Staff Writer

Thomas Walsh will serve 13 to 37 years for beating his ex-wife. He wanted a new trial.   Thomas Walsh doesn’t seem to know what he wants.

Walsh, 45, of Eddystone, was in Chester County Court yesterday to proclaim his innocence and demand a shorter prison term on his conviction for the October hammer beating of his former wife.

Last month, Walsh capped a trial and circus-like sentencing hearing, during which he cursed and sang Rolling Stones lyrics, by advising Judge James P. MacElree 2d to have him executed rather than send him to jail.

MacElree – then and yesterday – stuck with his decision to sentence the voluble Walsh to 13 to 37 years.

“Frankly, I was inclined to give the defendant more time,” the judge said. He said he had held back only because prosecutors had not sought more punishment.

Walsh has a history of violence and a record that includes stalking and threatening his ex-wife, Dinah Walsh.

According to his own statements, Walsh walked nearly 60 miles from Eddystone in Delaware County to Dinah Walsh’s trailer home in Honey Brook Township, Chester County, to retrieve the title to a vehicle they had shared. The couple had been separated for four years.

At the trailer, Walsh struck his former wife with a hammer, smashed a vehicle window, and was subdued only when one of his children hit him with a baseball bat and a neighbor showed up with a samurai sword, according to court testimony.

The encounter left Dinah Walsh with fractured ribs, multiple bruises, and her arm in a sling.

“I’m innocent of these charges,” Walsh insisted yesterday in a heated courtroom exchange with his defense attorney, assistant public defender Charles M.J. Nester, before MacElree took the bench.

Nester responded that he had advised Walsh early on to accept a plea bargain that would have come with a shorter sentence but that Walsh had insisted on going to trial.

Walsh also said he had gone to court thinking he was to get a hearing for a new trial. When Nester told him that wasn’t the case, Walsh blurted, “I don’t want you representing me, Mr. Nester. You’re fired.”

Nevertheless, when the judge was seated, Nester argued on Walsh’s behalf that jail time should be limited to the 6- to 12-year sentence offered in the rejected plea bargain.

Assistant District Attorney Megan Stumpf asked that the longer sentence stand, and showed the judge a six-page letter that Walsh had written to his teenage son, Tommy. In the letter, Walsh blamed his actions on the effects of withdrawal from antidepressant medication and his son’s failure to get the vehicle title for him.

Several times during the proceedings, Walsh turned and glared at his ex-wife, who in a letter to MacElree dated Aug. 21 implored the judge not to reduce the sentence.

“We deserve to live our lives in peace and without fear,” Dinah Walsh wrote. “This will only happen if he remains incarcerated.”