- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

LEWISBURG, Pa. (AP) - An 18-year-old man pleaded no contest Tuesday to participating in a rock throwing episode from an interstate overpass last year that caused grave head and brain injuries to an Ohio middle school teacher.

Tyler Porter entered the plea to conspiracy to commit aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury in a deal with prosecutors that calls for a sentence of 22 months to at least 10 years.

He’s expected to be sentenced along with two others in the coming months. The fourth defendant was previously sentenced and is in Camp Hill state prison.

Union County District Attorney Pete Johnson said Porter had little to say in court, beyond answering the judge’s questions about the plea, which avoided a trial that had been scheduled for this week.

“It’s a good thing that we have the certainty of the plea agreements, and that the victims don’t have to go through the torture of the trial process,” Johnson said.

Porter’s defense attorney, Pete Campana, said his client did not have the intent to cause serious injury and did not act maliciously, but he was willing to accept the plea to avoid the possibility of going to trial and receiving a longer sentence.

He said Porter is “very sorry” for what happened to Sharon Budd as she drove through Pennsylvania late at night, with her daughter and husband, on their way to see a show in New York.

“I understand the outrage at the seriousness of the injuries,” Campana said. “But nobody, no matter what you do to these kids, it’s not going to change that. I always thought two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Sharon Budd, who was not in the courtroom for the plea hearing on Tuesday, recently had her seventh serious surgery, to implant an artificial skull in her head. Her husband Randy said there have been complications but they are optimistic about her long-term prognosis.

Randy Budd said they were “happy that Tyler came forward” and entered a plea, eliminating a trial.

“I really do believe the DA did a nice job in getting them to plea, and I think reasonable pleas, also,” he said. “I think the defense attorneys, on their end, did a good job also.”

Porter, Brett and Dylan Lahr and Keefer McGee were engaged in an afternoon of mischief that nearly turned deadly the night of July 10, 2014, near their homes in the middle of Pennsylvania. Police said they smashed a window in a home and drove through a farm field before stopping at the overpass.

A trucker also reported damage from rock at about the same time at that spot.

Brett Lahr pleaded no contest to a conspiracy count and received 18 months to 20 years. Dylan Lahr pleaded guilty to trespassing, agricultural vandalism and two counts of aggravated assault and could serve more than four years in prison. McGee pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and could spend nearly a year in county jail.


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