Cornell Prince gritted his teeth and mumbled for mercy as he cried. His mother, a kidney-dialysis patient, begged for leniency so that he could be with her in her waning years.
A brother told of how Prince cared for another brother with spina bifida. A parade of nearly a dozen people, including his father, cousins and homeboys, yesterday stood to say that Prince was a good guy.
The unusually strong show of support for a convicted felon did not sway Common Pleas Judge John J. O'Grady Jr., who handed career-criminal Prince his longest sentence to date: 19 to 38 years in state prison.
As the sentence was read, Prince's mother, Katherine, and others wailed and shrieked.
Prince, 22, was convicted by O'Grady after a nonjury trial on Oct. 23 of aggravated assault, firearms violations and related offenses in the Oct. 15, 2008, shooting of Nora Bolorin, 39, and her granddaughter, Kiana Ayala, age 2 at the time. Both are still recovering physically and emotionally.
The broad-daylight gunplay unfolded near John Paul Jones Middle School, in Port Richmond, when Prince, on foot, opened fire on the driver of a Crown Victoria because he believed that the car had come too close to him.
Bullets from his revolver instead struck Bolorin in the ankle and Kiana in the thigh as they walked on Tulip Street near Ann. They had just visited Lydia Gonzalez, Kiana's mother, who had just given birth at Northeastern Ambulatory Care Center.
"I guess he got what he deserved," Gonzalez, 21, the mother of four, said outside court. "What if I would have lost my 2-year-old child? The sentence was meant to be done, but I don't feel no hatred towards him. I forgive him. . . . Me as a mother, I know for his mother it has to be a lot. But he's another one we need off the streets."
Kiana, who since the incident walks and runs slower than before and is afraid of some men, will soon start physical therapy, Gonzalez said. Bolorin said that she has had three surgeries to repair her shattered ankle. "I just take it day by day," she said.
Prince, who has been arrested eight times since age 15, with seven of them in and around his Port Richmond neighborhood, is "our city's worst nightmare," Assistant District Attorney Brendan O'Malley said.
At the time of the shooting, a warrant for his arrest had been issued for violating parole and probation terms that stemmed from drug cases and the 2005 robbery of a 22-year-old pregnant woman.
Prince, a high-school dropout, was arrested within a day of the 2008 shooting after police received tips from the community. That crime brought his conviction total to five, O'Malley said.
"We're very satisfied with the sentence," the prosecutor said. "A 2-year-old in broad daylight. An individual with a long criminal record. It's exactly the sentence that should be fashioned."
Prince, during a nearly 10-minute, rambling statement, said that he wanted a chance at a future, to possibly be like his brother who attends Kutztown University.
"I'm sorry for the victims and what they went through. I got family that got killed, I know how that feels. But I'm not the worst guy out here," said Prince, who was crying so hard that he had to sit down to finish his statement.