- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 15, 2014

WASHINGTON, Pa. (AP) - A man was sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison in the shooting deaths of two men outside a western Pennsylvania bar almost five years ago.

Phillip Whitlock, 31, of Washington, pleaded guilty in 2012 in Washington County to two counts of third-degree murder, aggravated assault and criminal conspiracy. He was charged in the February 2009 slayings of 23-year-old Troy Saunders Jr. and 24-year-old Marquis Taylor outside the Cabaret West bar in Washington.

Whitlock testified last month against co-defendant Gregory Avery Jr., who was acquitted.

Defense attorney Noah Geary sought a light sentence, citing his client’s cooperation with authorities, according to The (Washington) Observer-Reporter.

“Obviously, this case involves pointless, unnecessary violence,” Geary said. “Mr. Whitlock should’ve come forward sooner to assist the commonwealth, (but) he had some concerns about retaliation.”

Judge Katherine Emery, however, called the killings “terribly senseless,” and on Tuesday she imposed the term recommended by prosecutors.

“Two people’s lives were snuffed out at a young age and their families forever changed,” Emery said.

She noted that the sentence, which includes the time Whitlock has served since 2009, means that with good behavior he is likely to be freed someday.

“I know it will be a long time, but you will one day be released and be alive to do something with your life, unlike these two victims,” Emery said. “You have the potential to do something with your life.”

Whitlock apologized to relatives of the victims, saying, “It didn’t have to happen.”

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