Prison for York man who threw fatal punch in Girard Park
The 18-year-old York City man who caused Oscar Cherry III's death by punching the man in Girard Park in April must spend at least six years in prison.
Kwamiere Durham, of the 300 block of Pattison Street, pleaded guilty in York County Court on Wednesday, Oct. 25, to voluntary manslaughter, a first-degree felony.
As part of a negotiated plea agreement, his first-degree murder charge was dismissed and he was sentenced to six to 15 years in state prison.
Presiding Common Pleas Judge Michael E. Bortner asked first assistant district attorney Jen Russell whether Durham intended to kill Cherry, and Russell said no, there was no specific intent to kill
Chief public defender Bruce Blocher, who represents Durham, explained that a group of kids told Durham that Cherry was harassing them, "when in fact the victim was being victimized by the kids."
"I was trying to protect the kids," Durham told the judge in court.
Durham confronted Cherry in Girard Park, and Cherry started to back up. But Durham punched him once in the face anyway, causing Cherry to fall and hit his head on the asphalt, causing a fatal injury.
Apologized: After being sentenced, Durham spoke briefly to his victim's family.
"I would like to apologize for what I did, and I hope you can forgive me," he said.
Blocher said it's a case of of what's known as imperfect self-defense. That's when a defendant wrongly believes he's defending himself or others.
"He wasn't there to kill," the attorney said. "He got riled up by these kids."
Russell said it's a fair resolution, considering the facts of the case.
"In no way is that meant to diminish what happened to (Cherry)," she said, adding the young man's death was a tragedy.
The background: Cherry, 25, of East Boundary Avenue, was pronounced dead at York Hospital on April 18.
Officers were called to Girard Park — which is bordered by Girard Avenue, East Maple Street and East South Street — about 7:50 p.m. April 17 for a reported shooting, but there was no gunfire, according to York City Police Capt. Troy Bankert.
Cherry was at the park with children he was babysitting when a group of boys and girls starting making fun of Cherry and threw rocks and sticks at him.
At some point, Cherry became defensive of the children he was babysitting, police said.
He told the youths if they struck the girls he was babysitting with a stick, "I'll break it off in your ass," court documents state.
The group of youths left, but at least two of them returned with Durham after telling Durham that Cherry had hit them, police said.
After the assault, Durham and the kids fled before police arrived.
Knocked unconscious: Cherry was unconscious, bleeding from the head and not breathing when police arrived, according to Bankert, who said the man suffered a previous medical condition involving his brain.
Cherry died of blunt-force head trauma, according to the York County Coroner's Office.
Investigators were able to track down a video that showed the youths harassing Cherry, police said, but the assault was not part of the video.
Detectives tracked Durham through his Facebook profile of "KD Gusto," then arrested him at his home.
Court documents state that detectives knew they had their man when Durham said to them, "I didn't hit him that hard."
York City Council President Mike Helfrich has described Cherry as "a peaceful young man."
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.