A city man received a total sentence of 27 years in state prison for a 2014 shooting that left a man paralyzed and for an unrelated assault.
Judge Michael V. Coccoma handed down the sentence Monday morning after a lengthy proceeding that saw defendant Thomas Burns interrupt both the judge and prosecutor multiple times to express his dissatisfaction.
On some of the occasions, Burns’ interruptions included profanity-laden insults.
The judge responded by handing down a sentence that he said punishes the crimes — not Burns’ behavior in the courtroom.
Burns even interrupted the judge as Coccoma tried to lay out a mitigating factor — that the 43-year-old Burns had largely stayed out of trouble since arrests in his youth.
“At the same time I cannot excuse the conduct you engaged in: using a firearm against another individual, which fortunately did not kill him, but unfortunately imposed a sentence more severe than what I can impose,” Coccoma told Burns.
Burns stood trial for nearly a month earlier this year for the April 19, 2014, shooting of Mervin Bingham near 1685 Van Vranken Ave. and the assault on another man. Prosecutors contended Burns broke a smaller man’s jaw with a punch in December 2013.
The single shot the jury found Burns fired at Bingham immediately paralyzed the 22-year-old man. Bingham testified from his wheelchair at Burns’ trial.
The jury found Burns guilty of first-degree assault and second-degree assault in the two crimes, as well as other charges. The jury acquitted him of second-degree attempted murder, a count that carried the same potential 25-year sentence as the first-degree assault conviction.
Coccoma sentenced Burns to 20 years for the Bingham shooting and another seven years for the punch assault to run consecutively, for a total of 27 years.
Burns had faced a possible total of 32 years, which prosecutor Amy Burock requested.
Burock highlighted the extent of Bingham’s injuries and the effect it has had on his quality of life. He cannot walk and continues to suffer constant pain. He largely stays in his apartment.
“He was a 22-year-old man, unarmed, going to the store to buy a couple of items,” Burock said. “He came out, encountered the defendant and he will never walk again.”
Bingham had once lived in Burns’ apartment, moving out weeks before the shooting. Prosecutors argued Burns was upset with Bingham over seemingly minor matters.
Burns filed a motion on his own prior to the sentencing asking Coccoma to set aside the verdict. Burns is represented by attorney Fred Rench.
Coccoma denied that request after arguments. While Coccoma was speaking, Burns interrupted him using a vulgar term to say that Coccoma shouldn’t be the one to rule on the motion.
Through the interruptions and insults, Coccoma calmly continued the proceedings.
The judge noted that he gave the defense leeway during the trial to avoid such outbursts in front of the jury and a possible mistrial.
In his own comments, Burns continued earlier arguments concerning the verdict. He also continued the vulgar language, saying he didn’t know that at a trial there would be “so much [expletive] involved.”
He indicated an appeal is expected.
Rench, with whom Burns had sometimes been at odds, maintained his client’s innocence. “It is his position that he did not shoot Mervin Bingham,” Rench said.
Rench also noted “certain challenges” in the case, including his client’s willingness to speak out of turn. Rench asked Coccoma to rise above that and sentence Burns fairly.
Reach Gazette reporter Steven Cook at 395-3122, [email protected] or @ByStevenCook on Twitter.