SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – A former Carbondale police officer has pleaded guilty in connection with a deadly shooting two years ago.
Frank Schulze admitted to voluntary manslaughter Thursday morning and was then immediately sentenced.
Schulze was originally charged with first and third degree murder.
He was slated to go on trial next month.
After intense discussions, lawyers on both sides of this case agreed Thursday’s plea was the proper way to bring this case to a close.
Hugs outside the Lackawanna County Courthouse symbolized the end of a tough case.
Family members of former Carbondale police officer Frank Schulze embraced just minutes after he pleaded guilty.
“Today will never define who Frank is as a person,” Schulze’s mother Meredith Woolverton said.
Frank Schulze was arrested in March 2016 for killing Joseph Molinaro while off-duty one month earlier.
Schulze said he went to investigate noises outside his home and that led to a pursuit.
Three shots were fired by Schulze after he intially claimed Molinaro started coming towards him.
Schulze’s attorney believes his client was a good cop who made a mistake.
“I think Frank wanted a sense of finality for not only for the descendant’s family but also for his family,” defense attorney Corey Kolcharno said.
Prosecutors see it differently.
The charge of voluntary manslaughter is a first-degree felony.
“It was an unjustified killing. It was a bad cop who made a bad decision,” Mark Powell, Lackawanna County District Attorney said.
In court, Schulze apologized for what happened and gave some mindset into why he accepted the plea deal.
“The biggest thing he said was, you know what, yes, I wanted to be a police officer that was my dream but more importantly I wanted to be a father,” Kolcharno said.
Schulze has a six-year-old son.
Given the current situation with police shootings nationwide, his family believes taking the case to trial was too risky.
“I know as a mom, my son’s going to come home in a year and we’re going to rebuild his life and his friends,” Woolverton said.
Frank Schulze was immediately sentenced to between two and a-half years and five years in prison.
While he has already served the minimum sentence, part of Thursday’s plea deal is that he can’t ask for parole until he spends at least one more year locked-up.