A 22-year-old man was sentenced today to 19 to 38 years in prison for shooting a 2-year-old girl and her grandmother on a Port Richmond street while firing at a motorist he had been arguing with.
Common Pleas Court Judge John O'Grady Jr., who convicted Cornell Prince of two counts of aggravated assault and weapons charges in a bench trial on Oct. 23, issued the sentence at the end of a brief hearing.
According to police, the shooting happened about 2:15 p.m. Oct. 15, 2008. Prince and another man had just left a Chinese takeout restaurant at Tulip and Ann Streets when they got into an argument with people riding in a Ford Crown Victoria. The fight, police said, started when Prince thought the car had come to close to him.
As the car sped off, Prince, of the 2100 block of Auburn Street in Port Richmond, pulled out a large-caliber handgun and fired six times, witnesses said.
The only people struck were 2-year-old Kiana Ayala and her grandmother, Nora Bolorin, 39. The child was wounded twice in a thigh and Bolorin was struck once in an ankle. Prince was arrested the next day after police received a tip.
Assistant District Attorney Brendan O'Malley told the court the shooting was especially heinous because it happened in the middle of the afternoon in an area full of people, including many children leaving John Paul Jones Middle School less than a block a way.
O'Malley said Prince was a convicted cocaine dealer who had eight arrests and three felony convictions from ages 15 to 21. O'Malley said nearly all of the arrests took place in Port Richmond.
When the shooting occurred Prince was on parole for robbing a pregnant woman and there was a bench warrant for his arrest, O'Malley said.
Kiana's mother, Lydia Gonzalez, told the court her daughter, now 3, had emotional and physical problems as a result of the shooting.
"My daughter is not the same. . . . She can't walk the same. She can't run as fast," Gonzalez said, adding that the child must undergo physical therapy.
She told the court she had no hatred toward Prince, but asked: "What if I had lost my mother and my child?"
Gonzalez said Bolorin and Kiana had just left after visiting her in the hospital, where she had given birth to another child.
"To get [the news] that my daughter was shot and having a newborn in my hands" was a very emotional experience, Gonzalez said.
Bolorin said she had undergone surgery three times on her leg.
Prince, wearing a yellow golf shirt, sobbed loudly as he asked the judge for mercy.
"I'm sorry for the victims and their families. . . . I am not a bad person as the Commonwealth is making it seem."
Prince's lawyer, Max Kramer, urged the judge to be lenient. He said Prince was "extremely remorseful."
A string of friends and relatives, including Prince's mother, spoke on his behalf and asked the judge for mercy.
When the sentence was announced, Prince's mother wailed and wept in the courtroom.
"We're very satisfied with the sentence," O'Malley said. "It's exactly the sentence that should have been fashioned."