A Hanover man must spend at least four years in prison -- but not for endangering a Dover Township woman and her toddler by allegedly firing a bullet into their home.
Instead, Raymond Budzinski, 27, of 41 Redwood Lane, was sentenced to four to eight years in state prison for being a convicted felon in illegal possession of a firearm, and for escape.
"Four to eight years is a long time," senior deputy prosecutor Seth Bortner said. "And he deserves every day of it."
As part of a negotiated plea agreement, charges of discharging a firearm into an occupied structure, firearms not to be carried without a license and two counts of reckless endangerment were dismissed.
"I think part of the reason he didn't want to plead guilty to those (endangering charges) was shame, for the dangerous situation he created," Bortner said.
Bortner said he didn't mind dismissing those charges, as the most serious is a third-degree felony. Illegal gun possession by a felon is a second-degree felony, which carries a stiffer penalty.
Evidence: Public defender Katie Himes, who represented Budzinski, confirmed there were evidentiary issues with the case.
"Police couldn't make a (forensic) connection between the bullet found in the (victim's) wall to the firearm they recovered," she said.
A lab report from ballistics testing stated the bullet had insufficient marks and was too mutilated to connect it to the gun police recovered from Budzinski's father's home, Himes said.
"(My client) admitted that he was in possession of a firearm," she said.
But he was with another man at the time of the gunfire, so each man could have blamed the other for firing the gun had the case gone to trial, according to Himes.
The background: Northern York County Regional Police said Budzinski walked into the woods near his father's 3102 Galaxy Drive home about 2:50 p.m. Sept. 21, carrying a handgun and accompanied by his young daughter and a friend named Ken Wallace.
Himes said Budzinski was staying at his father's home at the time of the incident, and that his father owns firearms.
Budzinski fired at a tree but missed, police said.
Erica Fonesca was folding laundry in the kitchen of her home in the 3100 block of Galaxy Drive when she turned to hang up a shirt and heard a pop. That's when the glass on her sliding door shattered, police said.
A .45-caliber bullet ripped through the door's screen and glass panels, then lodged into a kitchen wall, police said.
Close call: Fonesca's daughter, who was 2 years old at the time, was standing at the door when the bullet came through it and was within inches of being shot, police said. Fonesca also barely avoided being shot.
"(The bullet) actually had to travel over her head to strike the wall," Northern Regional Lt. David Lash has said. "It was a dangerous situation."
A neighbor told officers that after hearing the gunfire, she spotted two men and a little girl quickly leaving the area, and that the men appeared to be panicked.
When officers tracked down Budzinski, he told them he'd been in the wooded area with his daughter and a friend, and heard a noise he thought was a firecracker, documents state.
But Wallace told officers it was Budzinski who fired the handgun, police said.
Escape: Budzinski was arrested and handcuffed and told to sit down, police said.
He took off running but was stopped by another officer, police said.
"He did not get very far at all," Bortner said, perhaps 30 yards.
Budzinski has been forbidden to possess firearms since being found guilty of felony drug crimes in 2004. He also was found guilty of felony escape in 2005, court documents state.
-- Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.