Area racetrack operator sentenced to state prison
CLEARFIELD - A Clearfield man charged with repeatedly ramming a fire truck at a local speedway was sentenced to state prison Tuesday in Clearfield County Court.
The charges stem from an incident July 1 at Gambler's Raceway Park in Lawrence Township when Delisle rammed a fire truck with five members of the Hyde Volunteer Fire Company inside. The volunteers had been ordered to leave because Delisle had not paid for the fire protection they were providing at the track. Without them, the races had to be canceled.
After a trial in January, Robert A. Delisle, 509 Sheridan Drive, Clearfield, was found guilty of assault (five counts), recklessly endangering another person (seven counts), injury/tampering with fire apparatus, disorderly conduct and three summaries. He was found not guilty of criminal attempt/criminal homicide, aggravated assault, and terroristic threats.
On Tuesday, Delisle was sentenced to eight months to four years in state prison and two years probation which will run concurrent with his sentence. He was also fined $290 plus costs. He was ordered not to have any contact with the victims and not to enter their property or the property of the Hyde Volunteer Fire Company. Delisle must also pay restitution of more than $43,000.
Prior to sentencing, some of the victims addressed the court, including David and Dawn Sell who according to testimony during the trial were in the front seat of the truck when Delisle backed his pickup truck into the vehicle, striking the driver's side door. He then backed into it a second time, drove around the track and then struck the fire vehicle either two or three more times head on.
David Sell said that the incident had an impact on his family, friends and the fire community. He mentioned his wife has been unable to work since the incident and asked for Judge Paul E. Cherry to give Delisle the maximum sentence.
Dawn Sell gave the court more details of the problems she has dealt with following the incident. After the initial hits, she alone remained in the vehicle for all the remaining impacts.
"The first hit I took as an accident," Dawn Sell said, "after the second time I knew we were in trouble."
She described the look in Delisle's eyes as "the devil" and added that as a corrections officer she had seen violent behavior before.
"This was different. I saw the rage in his eyes and knew our lives were in danger. I was bounced around like a rag doll," she said.
Dawn Sell explained she suffered whiplash, spent five months going to rehab and may continue to have problems for the rest of her life.
Other problems surfaced which were later diagnosed by a psychologist as post traumatic stress disorder. Her normal night of sleep lasts maybe four hours, she said as she admitted she has nightmares.
She hasn't been able to return to her job as a corrections officer because she is afraid of how she will react if there is a problem.
"I may totally freak out, or freeze," she explained.
Sell also expressed a concern for what Delisle may do in the future.
"I feel sorry for the next person he hurts," she said. "They may not be able to live to tell their story."
She asked Cherry to take Delisle's driver's license and to "make him get the help he needs."
Delisle himself addressed the court, apologizing and reiterated that his only intention was to disable the truck because they shut down his show. He claimed he didn't see anyone in the vehicle and if the had he would not have continued to strike it.
"It takes a special person to be a firefighter," he admitted. "They don't run away from danger."
District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. also cited a concern for the community because Delisle had acted in a fit of rage. He asked the judge for an appropriate sentence.
Before sentencing him, Cherry told Delisle that he knew what he was doing that day and it was not just trying to damage the vehicle. Recalling testimony from the trial, Cherry said that one man who was not even a member of the fire company had to be pushed out of the way.
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