A man convicted of voluntary manslaughter in a shooting outside a western Pennsylvania hot-dog shop has been sentenced to five to 15 years in prison.
Isiah Smith, 23, apologized to relatives of Zachary Sheridan, 24, in Allegheny County Court and to his own family for the August slaying outside the Original Hot Dog Shop in Pittsburgh.
Relatives of the victim asked for the maximum penalty of 10 to 20 years, while Smith’s family said a lenient sentence was in order.
“Justice may lie somewhere in the middle — or not,” Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Manning said Wednesday.
The defense argued that Smith acted in self-defense after an alcohol-fueled argument outside the popular eatery near the University of Pittsburgh campus. He surrendered to authorities 17 hours later.
Prosecutors said he pulled a gun and shot the victim as he walked away from the altercation that began when some of Sheridan’s friends, who are white, argued with a black woman and used a racial slur. Smith, who is black, and his attorney argued Sheridan was the aggressor for first punching Smith.
Smith’s mother, Christine Weedon-Holland — who called her son a “black Care Bear Doughboy” and insisted he posed no danger to anyone — also apologized to the Sheridan family.
“I hurt and bleed like them. I am deeply sorry,” she said. “I want the family to know we love them. We are sorry. It’s a tragedy for both ends.”
Friends and relatives described Sheridan as an avid athlete who loved life and family and who helped out family and others, even the homeless near PNC Park.
“Zach and I always knew what was right and what was wrong. Zach never deviated off the path he set for himself,” said his best friend, Bo Hodgkiss. “His path was always simple and straight.”
Manning said a friend of Smith’s family said it best when she asked during her testimony “Why didn’t you just walk away? Why didn’t everybody just walk away?”