Early Tuesday, Lycoming County Judge Nancy Butts sentenced convicted murderer Roger Mitchell Riera to 15 to 30 years in state prison, five years probation and a $10,000 restitution fine.
Riera was convicted in August of fatally shooting Andrew Scott Gula on Sept. 18, 2011, at Fourth and Market streets. The death occurred following an argument that began at a bar and eatery in the 300 block of Market Street at 1:50 a.m.
During the sentencing, Butts read a statement written by Gula's mother, Patricia Scott.
In the letter, Scott described her personal struggles in coming to terms with her child's murder. She lamented that she never will know the man her son could have become, and asked that Riera receive the maximum sentence allowed by law - 40 years and a fine of $50,000.
Scott recalled that Gula was bullied throughout school. "I consider Riera's murder of my son to be the ultimate act of bullying," she wrote.
Riera's jaw was clenched as he watched the proceedings. He looked on, dry-eyed, as his family members pleaded for a lenient sentence.
"I am sorry that Mitchell hasn't gotten across his grief; that he has this bravado. But he feels more than what you see here and he is very remorseful," said Elizabeth Soars Fink, Riera's aunt.
Riera's mother, Cammy Soars, also addressed the court. She recalled that she believed Riera had been trying to get his life together before the night of the shooting.
Prior to his arrest, Riera found out that he was going to be a father, and it reportedly filled him with a sense of duty and responsibility.
"He was so excited to become a better father for his family," Soars said.
"My son is not a danger to society. He's not a violent person," she added.
During his turn to speak, Riera addressed Gula's family members directly. He stated that he regretted he had not been able to apologize before now, but he had been told not to have any contact with the Gula family.
"There is nothing I can say, no words for this. There's a cocktail of emotions I cannot express," Riera said.
"If there's anything I can every do for you; if you have questions or need closure, please come see me," he added.
Butts explained that she was sentencing Riera based on his third-degree murder charge, and that his other two charges, manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon, would be merged for sentencing.
Though the judge said she did not believe Riera was a menace to society currently, she said he was certainly a danger to everyone around him on the night of Sept. 18. She also worried that state prison would only serve to harden and embitter the 24-year-old, who had no record prior to his murder conviction.
"Actions have consequences ... and there are some actions that you can never rewind," Butts said.
Butts also cited the impact the shooting has had on the community.
"I don't want people scared, thinking this is an outlaw town where everyone has to carry a gun after 5 p.m.," Butts said.