Daily Times (Primos, PA)
Woman sentenced for risking a catastrophe
MEDIA COURTHOUSE » An Upper Darby woman was sentenced to 11½ to 23 months with three years of consecutive probation after entering “no contest” pleas Tuesday to charges of risking a catastrophe, endangering the lives of children and trespassing.
Sharon Gale, also known as Sharon Tracey Gale Bey, 45, has already spent almost two years in prison for the offenses. She was given credit from time served from Mar. 25, 2019, to April 18, 2019, and from Sept. 15, 2019, to Tuesday under a negotiated plea worked out by Assistant District Attorney Heather Hayes and defense counsel William Davis.
Gale was arrested March 25, 2019, with Decorey Pitts, also known as Decorey Pitts El, 43, for allegedly powering an Upper Darby twin home on the first block of North Harwood Avenue with a generator, propane tank and car batteries.
Pitts, who is legally barred from owning firearms due to a prior conviction, was found guilty at trial of illegal possession of a firearm for a shotgun found on the premises and risking a catastrophe. He was sentenced to five to 10 years in a state prison in August.
The charges stemmed from an
eviction carried out by Delaware County sheriff’s deputies and Upper Darby police in March 2019.
Upper Darby Acting Police Superintendent Tim Bernhardt went
through photographs of the home with Hayes at Pitts’ trial, describing batteries and heating devices in various areas of the home, including a kerosene heater in the living room and a series of batteries tied together by wires in the kitchen near a propane tank with a heating element on top.
The home’s garage contained a generator and numerous jugs filled with what appeared to be gasoline, said Bernhardt. A wire was run from the garage to a “fully exposed” breaker box in the basement with additional wires coming off of it, he said, and three other batteries were found on the basement steps leading into the house.
Upper Darby Deputy Fire Chief James Johnson also testified at Pitt’s trial that the configuration presented an extremely dangerous situation for the inhabitants and their neighbors. He noted car batteries labeled “keep away from children” were in the bedrooms of three children in the house, aged 14, 8 and 7, and presented a risk of toxic gas and chemical burns.
The wires attached to the batteries could become overheated and burn through their protective casings or the clips on the battery terminals could spark, risking a fire from any number of flammable objects nearby, he said.
Johnson noted the exposed breaker box posed a risk of death or serious injury to anyone touching it and the presence of numerous accelerants on the property – a twin home in what Bernhardt described as a tightly packed residential block – could have burned much faster and created a greater risk than a normal house fire.
Johnson, a 32-year veteran of the department, called it an “extreme situation” and said it was probably the worst he had seen in his career.
Both defendants identified themselves as “Moorish American Nationals” and declined representation from the Delaware County Public Defender’s Office. Throughout most of her court appearances, Gale would repeatedly reject the authority or jurisdiction of the court and demand that the charges be dismissed.
Davis noted Tuesday that Gale had finally agreed to have him represent her at the previous trial listing, leading to Tuesday’s plea before Common Pleas Court Judge George Pagano.
Gale, appearing via video from the county jail in Concord, answered the questions of her attorney and the judge in entering her plea almost without additional comment. She indicated at one point that she is not an American citizen and was born in Morocco, however. Gale was advised and accepted that her pleading Tuesday may have immigration consequences.
In addition to jail time and probation, Gale was ordered to stay away from her former residence, provide a DNA sample and complete parenting classes.