The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

September 18, 2013

Copper pipe thief sentenced to 5 to 14 years in state prison

By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item

— LEWISBURG — A Milton resident who stole copper pipe in a July 2012 spree to feed his heroin addiction learned Tuesday he could spend as many as 14 years in a state prison for his crimes.

Nicholas Norman, 35, of Milton, was sentenced to 63 to 168 months concurrently — 5 1/4 to 14 years — on 10 counts of burglary in a four-block radius of South Sixth and South Seventh streets in Lewisburg in July 2012.

Along with court costs and fees, Norman also was ordered to pay roughly $20,500 in restitution to the victims for damage to their homes. His minimum aggregate sentence is 52½ months, not quite 4½ years.  

Norman was not entitled to credit for time served. That went to a conviction of two to four years in Northumberland County for a Milton break-in and copper theft, also in July 2012. Norman was in Northumberland County Prison when he was charged with the Union County spree.

The Northumberland County sentence will be served concurrently.

Both defense and prosecution worked to consolidate Norman’s 52 charges to expedite him through the court as thoroughly and fairly as possible. Ultimately, he was sentenced for 10 charges of burglary, and the remaining 42 charges were dropped as per his plea agreement.

The tally increased when in October 2012, state police charged Norman with a June 2012 break-in at an Allenwood home where he took about 300 feet of copper pipe.

It took Judge Michael Hudock nearly 20 minutes Tuesday to read through the charges and impose sentence on each.

“Have I missed anything?” he asked Union County District Attorney D. Peter Johnson at the end of the list.

“I never did a crime like this before,” Norman told Hudock in his statement to the court. “I’m not a person to commit crimes like this.”

Norman said the thefts were to help quench his heroin habit that developed after treatment with painkillers for a MRSA infection. Norman said he was attending a State College methadone clinic but couldn’t continue and was arrested while seeking help for his addiction.

Attorney Edward Rymsza, of Williamsport, called Norman’s case a difficult one to resolve. Norman had only a minor prior conviction, in 1999, Rymsza said, and became a heroin addict later in life.

The property crimes, Rymsza said, were “the result of feeding his addiction.” He requested the sentences run concurrent as Norman does not have a high risk of recidivism.

Johnson said the plea agreement was designed so that Norman would have consequences for each burglary.

“The fact of the matter is this was an extensive set of burglaries that put the community on high alert,” he said.

Hudock split the difference between both sides, but not before adding he “always has a problem when one says one isn’t that kind of person.” Looking at the sheer number of cases, “I find it hard to comprehend one isn’t that kind of person.”

Norman was to move to the state Correctional Institution at Camp Hill to serve his sentence.