By Andrew Scott Pocono Record
EASTON, Pa. — Daniel Clary, 22, of Effort, was sentenced Friday in Northampton County Court to 53 and a half to 110 years in state prison for the attempted murders of two state troopers.
Pulled over by state police for speeding and suspected driving under the influence Nov. 7 on Route 33 South, Plainfield Township, Clary shot at State Police Cpl. Seth Kelly and Trooper Ryan Seiple. Seiple was not hit, but the injured Kelly spent days in a coma before waking up in the hospital and having to learn basic physical functions all over again.
Survivors address Clary
“I have no recollection of the incident,” Kelly said when he and his wife, a fellow state trooper, were given the chance to address the court at Clary’s sentencing.
“I remember waking up in the hospital, being unable to speak and having a hard time breathing,” Kelly said as uniformed state troopers filled one side of the courtroom and Clary’s family sat on the other.
Kelly described fighting his way back to some semblance of a normal life, despite the lingering effects of injuries to his thigh and shoulder/neck areas. He shared the emotional impact of the widely publicized dash-cam video of the shooting on his family.
“This shows how quickly our jobs as law enforcement officers can turn tragic,” he said, thanking his family, fellow officers and community for their support throughout his recovery. “For the safety of law enforcement officers and the community, I hope Mr. Clary will never see another day of freedom in his life.”
Echoing these sentiments, his wife said, “Over and over again, I relive the terror of getting the call that my husband had been shot, of going to the hospital and seeing his unconscious, still body covered in blood as doctors pumped his heart in attempts to revive him.
“I’m simply unwilling to accept your actions as anything less than evil,” she told Clary. “My husband and Trooper Seiple were just doing their jobs to keep people safe. You’ve left scars not only on our family, but on your own as well. I hope you spend the rest of your life locked away where you can never harm anyone else.”
Joined by his own wife and pausing at times to control himself, Seiple related his memories of seeing his supervisor, Kelly, shot multiple times while firing back at Clary. Seiple recalled his desperate distress calls over the police radio as Clary sped away to the hospital where he was treated for his own wounds and taken into custody.
Seiple shared the horror of seeing Kelly lying in a pool of his own blood and Kelly’s bravery in tying a tourniquet onto his own thigh in efforts to stop the bleeding. He described the grim race against time as fellow law enforcement officers and medical personnel arrived to get Kelly into a helicopter to be flown to a hospital trauma unit.
And he told how he happened to be wearing a T-shirt that day in honor of another trooper who’d been killed in the line of duty.
“When my wife and I got back home, I took my baby daughter from my father’s arms, went into a dark corner and cried as I held her,” he said. “Had Mr. Clary simply cooperated, none of us would be here today. Had he been found with marijuana in his system at the time he was pulled over, the most he would have gotten was probation, given his lack of a prior criminal record. Instead, he chose to do what he did and endanger our lives and the lives of others.”
Turning to face Clary, Seiple said, “Convict! Your actions are a disgrace to mankind. I covered my hands with the blood you couldn’t bear. You tried to murder us, but we weren’t willing to die. Your failure will now be used as a lesson in how to keep our fellow officers safe. Good job! The evil within you will never prevail as long as there’s a shield of righteousness protecting the innocent.”
Seiple’s father, Police Chief Will Seiple, voiced pride in raising a son who, along with Kelly, exhibited heroism in the face of terror that day.
“Mr. Clary’s actions are an affront to decency,” Chief Seiple said. “He has no regard for the sanctity of human life. His actions show what can happen at any time in our community and how we should all be thankful for people like my son and Cpl. Kelly. I request he be given the maximum penalty allowed under law for this crime.”
On the defense’s side, where some see a monster, others see a tragic, misunderstood figure.
Clary had no adult or juvenile criminal record prior to this incident and was never abused or neglected as a child, but did have behavioral problems in school, according to his file.
Change in personality
He suffered a series of high school football concussions and was assaulted in the 11th grade by members of a gang he refused to join, defense attorney Janet Jackson said. The concussions and assault caused a brain injury that changed his personality from happy and vibrant to “slow,” according to school records.
“You’ll be talking to him and then notice he’s just staring at you, right through you, not even paying attention or realizing you’re still there,” relative David Clary said when called by the defense to testify on Clary’s behalf at the sentencing. “He has trouble understanding things, so you have to repeat things to him over and over. It’s why he’s never been able to hold a job. It’s why he should never have been allowed to buy a gun.
“Everybody’s judging Daniel based on what’s been reported in the news and shown in the video of the shooting, but nobody knows him like we do,” David Clary said as Daniel Clary sat quietly listening, having chosen not to speak on his own behalf. “He’s always been a good kid. He’s respectful.”
These PSIs gather information on the defendants’ backgrounds. Judges then consider this information, along with the severity level of the crimes of which the defendants have been convicted, to determine appropriate sentences to impose for those crimes under state guidelines.
The PSI on Clary includes a mental health evaluation revealing evidence of schizophrenia, anxiety, paranoia and psychotic, delusional behavior perhaps exacerbated by his frequent synthetic marijuana use. It’s unclear if the brain injury he suffered worsened these conditions.
Regardless, as a result, Clary wasn’t thinking or reacting as other people would when stopped by police, Jackson said. He reacted the way he did out of fear for his life, even though the judge and prosecution interpret the video as not showing police doing anything that would have caused him to fear for his life.
Seiple gave Clary a speeding ticket, noticing Clary seemed to have trouble understanding what Seiple was telling him about the ticket. Seiple then got back into his police car and began pulling back out onto the highway when Clary waved for him to come back.
“He’d wasted my time by pulling me over and I was annoyed, so now I wanted to waste his time,” Clary said when interviewed as part of the PSI.
When Seiple went back and began talking with Clary again, he noticed signs of Clary being under the influence of marijuana. Seiple decided to give Clary a field sobriety test and called for backup from the nearest available fellow trooper, which is standard procedure, while preparing to test Clary.
The nearest available fellow trooper, Kelly, responded and kept watch while Seiple tested Clary. Clary was unable to perform basic functions, like keeping his balance, which the troopers interpreted as him being under the influence.
“I was having trouble keeping my balance because trucks kept going by on the highway,” Clary said in his PSI interview.
Clary respectfully cooperated with police up until when they moved to arrest him for suspected driving under the influence, Jackson said. Not having been verbally told why he was being arrested, he thought the troopers meant to harm him and thus panicked, resisting arrest.
Clary didn’t throw any punches or kicks, but resisted to the point where troopers had to tase him. During the struggle, he grabbed for both troopers’ guns, apparently meaning to disarm them.
He then broke free from the troopers, ran to his car, leaned in through the front driver-side window, pulled out a handgun and fired at the troopers. While the judge said it wasn’t until Clary drew his gun that troopers finally decided to use lethal force in defense of their own lives, Jackson said Seiple’s gun was already out of his holster and aimed at Clary when Clary fired.
“We’re not requesting the court forego holding Mr. Clary accountable, but we’re asking for compassion on a young man whose mental problems have led him to where he is now,” Jackson said.
Given the fact that a mental health expert has found Clary competent and aware of what he was doing when shooting at police, despite his mental problems, the judge found the sentence imposed appropriate.
Clary’s visibly upset family told him they love him and to stay strong as sheriff’s deputies led him from the courtroom afterward.