Torsell sentenced

sganim@centredaily.comNovember 14, 2007 

BELLEFONTE — Bellefonte native Anthony Torsell will spend at least five years and eight months in state prison for killing a pedestrian and permanently injuring another while driving drunk last year.

Torsell, 21, was sentenced by Centre County Judge Thomas King Kistler to spend four to eight years in prison for killing Rick Smith, 22, of Conshohocken, followed by twenty to forty months for injuring Aaron Stidd, 21, of Huntingdon.

Torsell also was ordered to pay more than $4,000 in restitution to the Smith family and $26,700 to the Stidds for a transport vehicle for their son.

Torsell, who last week told the judge he was “partially” responsible for the crash, told Kistler on Tuesday “I understand fully what I have done and I take full responsibility for my part.”

“No one will ever know, no one else is in my position, and no one can understand how I feel,” he said, “how my heart breaks every day.”

But Centre County Assistant District Attorney Steve Sloane said Torsell has now had two opportunities to look at the Smith and Stidd families and accept full responsibility and apologize. Instead, Torsell talked about himself, never facing the families, Sloane said.

“I was waiting for it,” Sloane said. “It just never happened.”

The victim’s families expressed satisfaction with the sentence but were angry at what they see as a lack of remorse. J. Stidd said Torsell’s attitude proves he has learned nothing from the crash on Oct. 28, 2006.

“He’s still the same hedonistic individual who was behind the wheel that night,” Stidd said.

Before he was sentenced, Torsell’s attorney, Joe Amendola, asked for a mitigated sentence based on Torsell’s character and his clean record before the crash. He said Torsell simply “used a poor choice of words,” when he said he was “partially responsible.”

“This man was an all-American young man” who excelled in academics, athletics and gave his time to the community, Amendola said.

Sloane dismissed the notion of partial responsibility.

“We’ve known from the day of the incident that Mr. Torsell comes from a good family,” Sloane said. “However, that’s the side of Mr. Torsell that their family knows and this court knows that’s not the whole picture.”

Sloane cited aggravating circumstances and asked for a sentence of five to 10 years for each felony — homicide by vehicle while DUI, and aggravated assault by vehicle while DUI.

Sloane read from Torsell’s Facebook.com profile which boasted of drinking, drinking and driving, and described himself in glowing, often exaggerated terms. Sloane read the “favorite” quote on Torsell’s profile: “Are you gonna drive? Yea, but let me finish my beer.”

“Some of this may have been meant to be funny,” Sloane said. “It’s not funny.”

Sloane said Torsell had two, if not three opportunities to stop and “get a cold slap in the face” the night of the crash. But he drank to get drunk, then committed a “senseless act of driving,” he said.

“I don’t think the fact that he’s a good or great person from a good or great family has any relevance,” he said.

And he said Torsell did not accept full responsibility, even after conviction.

“I understand that at trial it’s a legal defense,” he said. “But after conviction ... he still is not taking complete responsibility for what he did.”

Kistler said there were too many aggravating circumstances, too many chances for Torsell to “stop what was going on,” and those factors overshadowed Torsell’s character.

He called the accident nothing short of “profoundly sad,” and said that even a conservative description of what happened that night “is without comparison.”

“The word ‘accident’ has been use a lot and I believe it’s appropriate in this circumstance,” Kistler said.

Amendola said the Torsell family was prepared for the possibility he would receive the maximum sentence of 10 to 20 years, and that he would be immediately taken into custody.

Sloane said he is hopeful that seeing Torsell being taken into custody by sheriff’s deputies will help the victims’ families begin to heal.

“I don’t know if the law can do anything to make them feel better,” Sloane said. “But we tried our best.” Sara Ganim can be reached at 231-4616. Centre Daily Times reporter Pete Bosak contributed to this report.⁴