West Chester man gets nine years for shooting former pro soccer player

Posted: May 21, 2014

A West Chester man was sentenced Monday to at least nine years in prison for shooting a former professional soccer player outside a borough bar last summer.

Chester County Court Judge Patrick Carmody said Curtis Zebley committed a "pure, idiotic, callous act" when he fired on a man who was running away from him.

"Before you even met the victims, you're walking around drinking with a loaded gun," Carmody said. "Guns and booze don't mix."

The August 2013 shooting left 35-year-old Jason Hotchkin, a former player for the Harrisburg City Islanders who had been in West Chester coaching a travel youth soccer team, in critical condition. After three operations, the Harrisburg man walks with a limp and is unable to run.

He said he had made his living as a coach but now must work with older teams, unable to demonstrate moves for younger players.

"That's where most of the joy comes from, is working with the kids and seeing them grow up," Hotchkin said as he left court.

A second victim, also a former player for the Harrisburg team, Moffat Ongwena, was pistol-whipped by the 26-year-old Zebley during the incident but has recovered.

Officials say Zebley shot at Hotchkin, striking him three times, after becoming upset that the soccer coaches were talking with two of his female friends. The shooting took place on the street as bars were emptying, prosecutor Mike Noone said. He said Zebley first fired a "warning shot" into the sky, putting others at risk.

Zebley pleaded guilty in March in exchange for prosecutors' dropping a count of attempted murder to two counts each of aggravated assault and recklessly endangering another person.

Zebley, his attorney, and the judge agreed Monday that the incident was out of character for the man, a father of one who worked as a mechanic before the shooting. Nearly a dozen family and friends were in court to support him.

Before being sentenced to serve nine to 18 years, Zebley said Ongwena had thrown the first punch in the fight.

"I'll never forget that night," he said. "And I'll always try to make it right for the victims.

"There's never really enough that can be done."


tnadolny@phillynews.com

610-313-8205 @TriciaNadolny

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