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Firing at Schenectady house nets man 20 years

Firing at Schenectady house nets man 20 years

The man convicted last month of shooting up a Schenectady house on Elbert Street was sentenced Wedne

The man convicted last month of shooting up a Schenectady house on Elbert Street was sentenced Wednesday to 20 years in state prison.

The sentencing came as the prosecutor in the case called the defendant, Joshua Harwood, a “virtual menace to society,” noting that the 30-year-old has a long criminal history.

Harwood maintains that he didn’t shoot up the house. A GPS tracker placed on a car that prosecutors said was driven only by Harwood put the car near the scene.

“The proof at trial showed, if nothing else, that the defendant has absolutely no regard for the lives of another person, no regard for society’s laws,” prosecutor Peter Willis told the court. “He has shown nothing in his criminal history in any way that he has conducted himself since he was 16 years old that gives the people any reason to believe he deserves any type of leniency in this case.”

Harwood, of Clarendon Street, Schenectady, was convicted after trial last month of charges that included second-degree attempted murder and first-degree attempted assault.

The verdict came after the jury heard evidence that Harwood and other unidentified people were responsible for as many as 20 shots fired at the Elbert Street home on June 12, 2012, after Harwood had an argument with his former girlfriend and her new boyfriend over the phone.

The jury also found that Harwood shot at the wrong house — the house his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend were at was two doors down. The house he shot at was home to a family, including three children, unconnected to the situation. No one was hurt.

Willis said in court that it would have been no better if Harwood had shot at the house where his intended victims lived.

The family in the house he did shoot up was subjected to trauma and terror in a “cowardly night-time assault” for something they were not involved in at all, Willis said.

No members of the family spoke at the sentencing, but Willis referred Judge Polly Hoye to their testimony at trial to point out the impact the shooting had on them.

Three or four of the shots went directly into the home’s living room, which was occupied by the parents and some friends, Willis has said. The shots hit a wall behind their heads. Another shot lodged in a wall near the bedroom of one of three children who were home at the time. A shotgun also was discharged directly at the front door of the home.

Key to the case was a GPS tracker affixed to a car driven only by Harwood, Willis has said. The tracking device was placed there with a court order as state police investigated a string of burglaries in Fulton, Montgomery and Schoharie counties. Harwood was later charged in several of those break-ins.

When his name came up as a suspect in the Elbert Street gunfire, investigators checked the GPS log and found the car was driven almost to the shooting scene and parked on the next street for about 20 minutes at the time of the shooting.

Harwood’s attorney contended that the car was owned by his sister and there was no proof Harwood drove it that night. In his opening statement, James Walsh called the prosecution’s case a “bucket of steam,” saying there was no evidence connecting Harwood to the crime.

In court Wednesday, Walsh repeated his client’s assertions that he didn’t shoot at the house. He may be a burglar, Walsh told the court, but he’s not an attempted murderer.

“Mr. Harwood maintains his innocence, that he is not guilty of attempted murder, not guilty of the crimes he’s been found guilty of,” Walsh told the court.

Walsh also told the court of a tough upbringing that turned Harwood to a life of burglaries. He indicated that an appeal is forthcoming.

Presiding Judge Hoye agreed that Harwood may have had a tough upbringing, but she said that doesn’t excuse his behavior.

The verdict, she said, was supported by the evidence. She also mentioned the danger to the people in the house that was shot.

“It was obviously traumatic to have people shooting into their house while their children were sleeping,” Hoye said. “Someone easily could have been seriously injured or killed.”

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