House arrest for theater shooting

Posted: March 03, 2011

The curious case of James Cialella came to a close yesterday when a Philadelphia judge sentenced the Iraq War Army veteran to house arrest and probation for shooting a fellow moviegoer on Christmas Day 2008.

Cialella, 32, could have been jailed for nine to 16 months for the shooting, which grew from a fight at the United Artists Riverview Plaza theater on Columbus Boulevard during a showing of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."

Common Pleas Judge Genece Brinkley instead sentenced Cialella to 11 1/2 to 23 months of house arrest followed by five years of probation.

Cialella, of South Philadelphia, pleaded guilty in November to aggravated assault and possession of an instrument of crime for shooting Woffard Lomax Jr.

Defense attorney Gregory Pagano told the judge that his client had "virtually" no criminal record, had recently married, had graduated from college, and had served his country as an Army sergeant.

Pagano said that Cialella shot Lomax in the arm believing that he was acting in self-defense. He said that Cialella went to help after hearing a woman shout that her husband was being attacked.

"At one point my client pulled out his firearm and shot once in what he thought was self-defense," Pagano said.

Cialella's gun was legally registered in North Carolina, where he was stationed at Fort Bragg, Pagano said.

Lomax testified during Cialella's Dec. 31, 2008, preliminary hearing that the fight began when another man told him and his family to be quiet and that Cialella threw popcorn at him before opening fire.

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