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Man Sentenced for Threats that Cancelled Youth Season

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Copyright 2017 Tribune Review Publishing Company
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Tribune-Review (Greensburg, PA)
RICH CHOLODOFSKY


A Mt. Pleasant Township man will serve four months on house arrest for making threats against organizers of a local youth football league, prompting the cancellation of the final 20 games of the 2015 season.

"Your conduct and your behavior ... you likely stripped some of these kids from playing, and that can't be repaid to them," Westmoreland County Judge Christopher Feliciani said Monday to Joseph Vincent Loughner, 52, during a sentencing hearing. "Some kids might never be involved in sports again."

Loughner pleaded guilty last year to misdemeanor charges of conspiracy, terroristic threats and harassment for sending threatening letters. Prosecutors dismissed more serious felony counts that included allegations that Loughner left bullets inscribed with threats near the playing field.

In addition to house arrest, the judge sentenced Loughner to serve five years on probation and ordered him to pay the Mt. Pleasant Area Junior Football League $16,000 in restitution for money the organization lost by canceling four weeks of games.

Feliciani ordered Loughner to perform 80 hours of community service and suggested that it be done for the football organization, if its officials accepted the proposal.

League President Brandon Caletri told the judge the organization won't allow Loughner to have any involvement with the program.

Loughner's youngest son played for one of league's teams in the 2015 season.

Police said Loughner and a co-worker, Kimberly Ross, 35, of Connellsville, sent letters to a referee that prompted him to resign. In mid-October, league officials found 40 bullets -- some with the names of league officials written on them -- scattered in the parking lot in front of Hurst Field in Norvelt, where the league plays.

A later letter to the league president said: "Now this is a threat, if one more kid gets hurt, I will kill you. Take it any way you want it and to the cops if you like. That is a promise. Take it to your grave." Defense attorney Ken Burkley said Loughner played no role in spreading the bullets near the field.

After the ammunition was found, league officials canceled remaining regular season and league championship games.

"It affected our whole community after this made the national news," Caletri told the judge. "We have always been a football community, so it was hard on this league. The ones it hurt the most was the eighth-graders, who didn't get to finish out the season."

Caletri said the impact of the incident is still felt. The league had more than 300 players and cheerleaders in the 2015 season. Membership dropped significantly last season, and Caletri said only two teams are planned for the coming season.

In a brief statement he read in court, Loughner apologized for making the threats and said he did so to protect the players' safety after many sustained injuries early in the 2015 season.

"Many parents were concerned about the players being hurt and their safety. I'm not proud of what I did," Loughner said.

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