Ex-Northeastern superintendent guilty of assault, making threats

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

Northeastern School District's former superintendent must spend six months in York County Prison for assaulting his ex-wife's boyfriend in 2015.

Shawn Minnich, 45, of Nursery Road in Conewago Township, pleaded guilty Tuesday, Oct. 3, in York County Court to simple assault, making terroristic threats and two counts of reckless endangerment. In exchange, his other charges were dismissed, including the felonies of aggravated assault, burglary and criminal trespass.

Former Northeastern School District Superintendent Shawn Minnich leaves the York County Judicial Center as supporters try to block media Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. He pleaded guilty to charges related to a 2015 incident involving his estranged wife. Bill Kalina photo

As part of a negotiated plea agreement, he was sentenced to six to 23 months in prison, plus six years of probation. He also was ordered to undergo mental-health and drug and alcohol evaluations and follow through with any medical recommendations.

Additionally, Minnich can only communicate with his ex-wife through email and texts, and only about matters involving their two children, during the term of his probation.

He must report to prison Nov. 6, presiding Common Pleas Judge Michael E. Bortner ordered.

Apologized: "I am sorry. I do apologize," Minnich said, directing his comments to ex-wife Kathy Minnich and her boyfriend, Christopher Leh.

Defense attorney Chris Ferro called the resolution "unsatisfying but necessary."

"Dr. Minnich needs to move on with his life and put these 'victims' in his rear-view mirror," the attorney said. "The truth is that my client made an isolated mistake in an otherwise remarkable life. This resolution makes sure he is not a convicted felon and does not suffer catastrophic consequences for this lone act."

Ferro said his client showed a "singular act of emotion when dealing with a crumbling marriage and a challenging spouse."

"Dr. Minnich remains remorseful for his conduct," Ferro said. "However, he is also talented, respected and ready to start the next chapter of his life."

Former Northeastern School District Superintendent Shawn Minnich leaves the York County Judicial Center Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. He pleaded guilty to assaulting the boyfriend of his estranged wife. 
(Bill Kalina photo)

The background: According to testimony from an earlier hearing, the then-superintendent burst into Kathy Minnich's East Manchester Township home on Dec. 4, 2015, threw her against a wall and attacked Leh, who was on the phone with 911.

Leh testified at Shawn Minnich's preliminary hearing that he, Kathy Minnich and the Minnichs' two children hid in a back bedroom before the superintendent kicked in the front door.

"He ran full force at me and knocked the glasses off my face and the phone from my hand," Leh said during the February 2015 hearing, adding that Shawn Minnich told him, "I'm going to f—ing kill you."

'I'm going to die': Leh said he used his right arm to try to keep Shawn Minnich at bay, adding that Minnich repeatedly asked Leh to shoot him.

"He was trying to punch me. ... He was attacking me," Leh said. "He had me up against the wall. ... He (was) squeezing my throat with his hand. ... At that point I thought, 'Oh my God, I'm going to die.'"

Instead, neighbor Vada Fink — facilities manager for the York County Judicial Center — interceded, according to Leh.

"He just grabbed Shawn ... and dropped him to the ground," Leh testified.

Fink previously told The York Dispatch he simply reacted after he heard a woman and a child screaming.

Kathy Minnich, who is a teacher in the Northeastern School District, spoke in court Tuesday about the effect her ex-husband's crime has had on her and her children.

Shawn Minnich

Community 'polarized': She chided her ex for his "futile attempts to deflect blame" and for disparaging her character and Leh's character, when the focus "is and should have been on you and your choices."

She took Shawn Minnich to task, telling him he should have simply taken responsibility for his actions rather than "thrust" their family into the media spotlight and "polarize" the community "while you stood by and let people think you were the victim in all this."

"When you couldn't control me, you wanted to control what people thought of me," she said. "This was not the first time the police were called to our home."

Kathy Minnich said their children were traumatized by his actions.

Judge Bortner stopped Minnich while she was still giving her victim-impact statement, saying she'd gone too far afield.

'One of a kind': Three people spoke in court on Shawn Minnich's behalf — retired Northeastern superintendent Robert Tabachini Jr., Kathy Minnich's mother and longtime friend Benjamin Yerger.

"He is a good man who made a mistake," Yerger told the judge. "Shawn will not reoffend."

"He's one of a kind, (a) consummate professional" known for going the extra mile, said Tabachini, who is now a Northeastern school board member.

Shawn Minnich rose from being a teacher at Conewago Elementary School to being superintendent in a short time, Tabachini said, and was "instrumental" in improving the high school.

More:Man allegedly attacked by superintendent blasts school board

The defendant's ex-mother-in-law, Mary Brungard, spoke on his behalf.

"Shawn has always shown us nothing but love and respect," she said. "He has said many times how sorry he is."

When Brungard became critical of her daughter, senior deputy prosecutor Kara Bowser reminded Bortner that he had cut off Kathy Minnich's statement but hadn't stopped Brungard from digressing.

Bortner agreed and had Brungard return to the gallery.

Restitution issue: Shawn Minnich's court case isn't over.

A restitution hearing must still be held, as he is challenging the $14,000 in medical bills that prosecutors say Leh incurred, primarily to cover the cost of surgery for his shoulder injury.

Ferro told the judge that the defense maintains Leh's injuries predated the assault.

A date for the hearing has not yet been set.

Shawn Minnich declined comment to The York Dispatch as he left the York County Judicial Center.

He remained superintendent for about six months after being charged. Northeastern School District officials ignored repeated requests from The York Dispatch to discuss the situation.

The school board eventually terminated him in a tearful meeting after the state suspended his teaching certificate, making him ineligible for the superintendent position.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.