August 17, 2015
By Sarah Cassi
The Allentown security guard convicted by a jury of shooting to death an unarmed man will wait a little longer to learn his new sentence in the case.
The state Supreme Court has not relinquished its jurisdiction over the case of Andrew Gesslein II. Without remanding the record back to Lehigh County, Lehigh County Judge Robert Steinberg said he cannot re-sentence Gesslein.
Because the county court is waiting on the state court, the judge could not set a new date for the sentencing hearing.
The 45-year-old Gesslein was convicted by a Lehigh County jury in the fatal shooting of Michael Maurice “O Head” Randolph. Gesslein has maintained he shot Randolph in self-defense in the early morning of April 29, 2012, after Randolph forced his way into the after-hours North End Republican Club.
Following the conviction, Steinberg sentenced Gesslein to five to 10 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter, the lowest possible sentence, then later granted Gesslein a new trial.
The judge said he based his decision to grant a new trial on “truly extraordinary circumstances,” arguing that prosecutors did not disprove Gesslein’s claim of self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.
“No reasonable person could argue that Michael Randolph was not aggressive in both manner and deed toward Mr. Gesslein. He forced his way into the club after he directed threats at Mr. Gesslein because he was not permitted admission into the club,” Steinberg said in his opinion granting the new trial.
Prosecutors appealed the new trial, arguing the judge placed himself as the “13th juror” in concluding the verdict was against the weight of the evidence.
Randolph was shot three times in the back. Gesslein claimed Randolph reached for a gun, but authorities found no gun on his body. Gesslein, who worked for the Eye in the Sky security firm, was licensed to carry a gun but was not supposed to be armed for that job.
At the sentencing hearing, Steinberg said Randolph bore “some responsibility here.”
“Let’s not say Michael Randolph was this wonderful citizen, because he’s not,” Steinberg said.
While attorneys waited for the upper court to decide those issues, Gesslein was granted bail but was never able to post the 10 percent of $250,000 and remained in state prison. Judge Kelly Banach ruled he could not use real estate as collateral for the bail.
When Gesslein was granted bail, he told the judge “I am very confident when this goes to trial things are going to come to light that didn’t come out the first time.”
The state Superior Court ruled in December that Gesslein should not have a new trial, but that he should be resentenced.
But Gesslein’s case was also part of an appeal on the state’s mandatory minimum prison sentencing system. When the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of Kyle Hopkins, Steinberg said, it released his case but not the others attached to it. The court is looking at each of the additional cases, the judge said, so Lehigh County officials don’t know when Gesslein’s sentencing hearing can be held.
The Hopkins case, according to a report by The Legal Intelligencer, tossed mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses in drug-free school zones.
Gesslein was brought to county jail for Monday’s hearing, and attorneys in the case were ready to go, until they learned the state court had not officially relinquished its jurisdiction of the case.