Judge Sentences Former 'Infamous Choppers' Owner to Prison
John Duzicky ordered to serve six to 12 years in a state penitentiary.
John Duzicky’s voice cracked as he apologized to a Beaver County Court judge for leaving the state and failing to return for his sentencing on drug charges in January.
“I was scared. I was backed into a corner and did not know where to go,” Duzicky, 39, formerly of Aleppo, said Wednesday before his sentencing.
But Beaver County Common Pleas Judge John P. Dohanich told Duzicky that he should also be apologizing to his family members, friends, attorney and the prosecution. All of them showed up that day, only to be disappointed by his absence, the judge said.
“You let them down . . . you let me down,” Dohanich said. “I let you out on bond . . . and then you didn’t show up. That’s not right, Mr. Duzicky . . . and because you didn’t show up, in my opinion, you deserve to get more.”
Dohanich sentenced Duzicky to six to 12 consecutive years in prison, with eligibility for parole after six years. He also ordered Duzicky to pay $250,000 in fines and prosecution costs, and -- unless Duzicky can prove any objections within 30 days -- $21,705 in restitution to the state Attorney General's Bureau of Narcotics, which investigated the case. Duzicky was also ordered to undergo drug and alcohol evaluation and treatment.
Duzicky was one of 12 people charged in a drug-trafficking operation that agents with the state Attorney General's office said shipped marijuana valued at more than $2 million from Arizona to Western Pennsylvania between 2007 and 2009.
The former owner of the Infamous Choppers motorcycle shop in Ohio Township pleaded guilty Jan. 28 to charges of maintaining a corrupt organization and possession with the intent to deliver a controlled substance, according to the Beaver County Sheriff’s Office. While on bond and awaiting sentencing, however, he fled to Arizona until authorities with the sheriff’s department located and extradited him.
Because the case was heard in state court and not federal court, Dohanich made it clear Duzicky’s punishment could have been far worse.
“We’re happy that it wasn’t more. I think the judge was fair,” said Duzicky’s girlfriend, Tammy Isheeva of Arizona, who wiped away tears at the hearing. She was one of several people who attended the hearing to support Duzicky.
Prior to the sentencing, former co-worker and friend Gene Pash, president of Value Ambridge Associates, which oversees the Ambridge Regional Center, also spoke on behalf of Duzicky.
Pash said he first met Duzicky as a tenant and general contractor through Duzicky’s company, Residence Construction. He found Duzicky to be a “very capable young man, honorable to his word,” he said, adding that Duzicky’s local reputation was “stellar.”
After a line break in the middle of the night on the 85-acre Ambridge site, Duzicky came out and excavated the repairs with his own equipment, Pash said. Duzicky was also recognized in 2004 by the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce as one of 30 people under age 30, he said.
Pash, a Vietnam veteran, said the two developed a bond after he learned Duzicky’s father was a disabled Vietnam veteran. In 2003, Duzicky’s father died, and four months later, his brother died.
“I wish he hadn’t made the decisions that he did,” Pash said. “Given the chance, I know he’ll be successful again.”
Duzicky’s attorney, William Difenderfer, also painted a picture of a man who was hardworking and well-liked in the community, with no prior criminal record. He pointed out that other than a disorderly conduct charge in 2010, Duzicky had not had so much as a speeding ticket in his life.
Difenderfer said Duzicky attended Quaker Valley High School, but after his parents separated he moved with his mother to Arizona, where he played high school football and started working right after graduation.
Duzicky is self-taught in construction and maintenance, and he used those skills to start his own construction company, the attorney said.
Difenderfer asked the judge to consider Duzicky's record and to issue a sentence comparable to what the other defendants in the case had received. The attorney pointed out that 10 years from now, with possible law changes, Duzicky's actions might not even be considered criminal acts.
“This case is about marijuana, albeit a lot . . . After this guy is in jail for five years of his life, what’s accomplished?”
But the prosecution said it was seeking the mandatory sentence.
Tomm Mutschler of the Attorney General's office reminded the judge of the gravity of the drug-trafficking organization that Duzicky headed. He said Duzicky began bringing marijuana into Pennsylvania as early as 1990, when he was in high school, and continued until he was caught.
“While he was not being caught during that period of time, he was clearly offending during that period of time,” Mutschler said. “That tells me he was pretty good at what he did.”
Duzicky inherited the drug operation in 2007 from another man who is now in federal prison, Mutschler said, adding that several of the subcontractors Duzicky hired also were in on the drug trade and received sentences.
“The defendant sitting in prison may not be a learning lesson, but society can take some degree of comfort in knowing he’s not back on the streets,” Mutschler said.
Dohanich said he took several factors into consideration before making his ruling. He said he realizes some people don’t believe marijuana is a serious drug, but the legislature doesn’t see it that way.
Dohanich said he was baffled by the case.
“What’s very troubling about this whole case is when I looked at all the defendants that came by me -- all of you came from good homes, good parents, good wives, parents, good jobs . . . The money must’ve just been too good for you to continue on the right path,” Dohanich said.
“You were one of the leaders and organizers of this corrupt organization. You were the head guy. You were the guy. You ran the operation,” the judge added.
He said Duzicky will still be a young man when he’s released from jail and has the opportunity now to turn his life around.
“I certainly hope you’re able to do that,” Dohanich said.