Homeowner who shot at lost driver released from prison early

A Salem man who was sent to prison for up to seven years for shooting the truck of a man who was turning around in his driveway has been released from prison early under the state’s “merit release” program thanks to a loophole in state law.

Brian Tschorn was released six months early, after serving 23 months of a two-and-a-third- to seven-year prison sentence for a June 2016 shooting at his then-home on Route 153 in Salem, just west of the Vermont state line. He pleaded guilty to felony reckless endangerment and prohibited use of a weapon and misdemeanor criminal mischief.

The sentence was the maximum, and it was upheld when appealed last summer.

Tschorn, 38, was not eligible for parole until May 2018, but was released Dec. 18 when the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision deemed him eligible for “merit release.” Merit release is awarded when a prisoner applies and DOCCS finds “merit release is in the best interests of society” after the inmate has made “favorable adjustment” while in custody.

He was sentenced to the maximum in January 2017 for a shooting that occurred at his home months earlier.

A New Hampshire man who was trying to find a relative’s new home drove up his long driveway the night of June 19, 2016, only to be met with numerous gunshots from the home at the end of the driveway.

Police determined 40 shots were fired from two rifles, and Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan said evidence showed that one shot that penetrated the cab of the truck missed the driver’s head by less than an inch.

Jordan said Tschorn’s early release “caused us concern,” but his office was not given an opportunity to weigh in on it as part of the merit release process.

Tschorn was released thanks to a loophole in state law that does not consider the crimes to which he pleaded guilty “violent offenses.”

Those convicted of violent felonies are not eligible for merit release, according to DOCCS policies. But despite the fact that Tschorn shot a semiautomatic rifle at a truck numerous times, hitting it and narrowly missing its driver, the offenses of which he was convicted are not considered “violent” felonies under state Penal Law.

“There are a lot of crimes that are violent, but are not classified as violent felonies,” Jordan said.

Patrick Bailey, a spokesman for DOCCS, said the Parole Board reviewed Tschorn’s application and determined “merit” release was warranted, but the department would not release what rationale was used to make that determination.

Tschorn’s lawyer had claimed at his sentencing that he was a former wildland firefighter who suffered from PTSD after witnessing colleagues die in a fire years earlier.

He said in an email that Tschorn will be on parole until 2024, and he is living in Vermont.

Parole can be terminated early under the same “merit” criteria, though.


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