Jury finds Picture Rocks man guilty of firing rifle near ex-girlfriend
After a brief afternoon of deliberating, a jury in Lycoming County court found James Edward Nottingham guilty of all counts brought against him for terrorizing his ex-girlfriend and members of her family with a semi-automatic rifle.
Nottingham, 51, of Picture Rocks, was working with two of Janett Joann Smith’s cousins in July of 2015.
On their way home, he stopped at a bar and got drunk, according to testimony from Smith earlier in the week.
Smith said she followed him home and when he became belligerent, she tried to leave with her teenage daughter – beginning the incident that will likely add to Nottingham’s already 5- to 10- year state sentence for possessing the rifle.
During testimony two vastly contrasting scenarios were given to the jury.
Smith, her daughter, and her two cousins said Nottingham smashed the rear windshield of a car with a bottle, followed them up to the house, threw Smith across the room, punched the youngest cousin and got out a high-powered rifle, firing rounds near a kneeling Smith after saying, “let’s have some fun.”
He fired out the door and then into the floor close to Smith, the family said.
But according to Nottingham’s version of events, he was the victim early that morning.
After finding evidence of Smith having an affair, Nottingham was jumped and framed for the incident when she realized he was leaving her, he said.
As for the blood found all over the scene, Nottingham said it wasn’t his and that it was placed there by state police.
“Where did the gun come from?” Nottingham asked the trooper in court Monday. “Where’d the blood come from? It’s not mine. You put it there and I know you did.”
During his closing statement, Public Defender Matthew Bernard Welickovitch urged jurors to consider the inconsistencies in the family’s testimony and the things missing from the commonwealth’s case.
“There’s enough cloudy territory to create a reasonable doubt,” he said.
Despite the shell casings all over the floor of the house and holes in the floor, state police didn’t find any bullets or bullet fragments. The presence of gun powder residue could’ve been searched for and no alcohol test was given to Nottingham, Welickovitch said.
“But what is perhaps the biggest thing missing is the blood,” he said. “The blood easily could’ve been tested and used as hard evidence.”
But Assistant District Attorney Martin Wade reminded jurors of a much different story Nottingham gave at previous hearings.
“During a statement under oath, he said the gun went off as he was being attacked, but at trial he denies the gun being there at all and if anyone has a motive to lie, it’s Mr. Nottingham.”
Addressing the blood, Wade said there wasn’t any reason to test it because the blood was found on everything Nottingham would’ve touched that night including the handle to his truck, the door knob to his home, the bag of ammo and the rifle he loaded that ammo into.
“To believe that these people (Smith, her daughter and her two cousins) are lying you’d have to believe that there was a grand conspiracy to frame Mr. Nottingham including the state police and the Adult Probation Office,” Wade said. “That’s unreasonable.”
On Tuesday, Nottingham was scheduled to be sentenced on charges of unlawful restraint, endangering the welfare of children, possession of an instrument of a crime, reckless endangerment of another person, simple assault and harassment.