PITTSBURGH – A man whose wife is charged with fatally shooting an FBI agent was sentenced to 25 years in prison on the drug charges that brought the agent to their home that day, plus other crimes.
The judge assured Robert Korbe, 41, of Indiana Township, that he was not being sentenced for the shooting, but Korbe's defense attorney said afterward that his client might have spent as little as 10 years in prison had his wife not shot FBI Special Agent Samuel Hicks that day.
"Take away this tragedy," defense attorney William Difenderfer said, "and he'd be looking at a different sentence."
Korbe's wife is awaiting trial in March on charges including murdering a federal agent.
Hicks was the first of several officers to burst through the Korbes' front door at 6 a.m. on Nov. 19, 2008, with a warrant to arrest Robert Korbe on drug-trafficking charges.
Christina Korbe has acknowledged she shot Hicks, but has said she thought he was a burglar and fired to protect the couple's two young children. Federal prosecutors contend that's a lie and point to two facts alluded to in her husband's sentencing on Friday.
Authorities have said Korbe said she didn't know Hicks and the others were officers, but her husband acknowledged recognizing it was a raid, which is why he ran to the basement to flush cocaine down a drain.
"Your long-term criminal activity brought officers to your house on the morning of Nov. 19, 2008, and what did you do? You didn't open the door and surrender," U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry told Korbe, saying his actions "set the stage for the tragic events that followed that fateful morning."
Christina Korbe also has told authorities she was fearful because their home had recently been burglarized.
Robert Korbe acknowledged that the burglary was a ruse. Korbe couldn't sell his motorcycle, so he gave it to a friend who staged the break-in so Korbe could report the bike, tools and other items stolen.
His sentence Friday included time for mail fraud for a bogus $20,000 insurance claim that he pleaded guilty to in May along with drug and weapons charges.
Korbe also pleaded guilty and was sentenced Friday for illegally possessing four firearms, including the gun his wife used to shoot Hicks, and a charge of possession with intent to deliver drugs stemming from a pound of cocaine that agents found in his home that day.
Because Korbe had four prior drug convictions dating to the mid-1990s, he faced at least 20 years in prison as an armed career criminal.
As part of a plea bargain, prosecutors asked a judge to consider just one of those convictions in deciding which statute Korbe violated; otherwise he would have faced a mandatory life sentence. Instead, McVerry had the option of sentencing Korbe from 20 years up to life, and added five years to the minimum sentenced at Assistant U.S. Attorney Troy Rivetti's urging.
Korbe didn't say anything before his sentencing.
Rivetti told McVerry that any claims Korbe made in pretrial filings that he was remorseful or planned to turn his life around were bogus.
"For this defendant, these sentiments, these statements are a complete fraud. They're a complete lie," Rivetti said. "All he had to do was open that door, and had he, Special Agent Sam Hicks would still be alive."
Instead, Rivetti said, Korbe cursed at the officers and laughed when he heard one had been shot.
Difenderfer said Korbe's remarks were taken out of context. He said Korbe reacted angrily because agents, at first, were accusing him of shooting Hicks, which Korbe knew didn't happen. Korbe didn't hear his wife fire the gun while he was in the basement and didn't realize until later that she shot Hicks, Difenderfer said.
"The thing that's so horrible about defending this crime in the companion crime," Difenderfer said, insisting after the hearing that Robert Korbe is remorseful for Hicks death.
Special Agent in Charge Michael Rodriguez, who heads the Pittsburgh FBI office, said the sentence was fair but doesn't remedy the situation. Hicks, 33, left behind his wife, Brooke, and son, Noah, who was 2 at the time.
"We have a young boy, a son of Sam Hicks, who's never going to see his father again," Rodriguez said. "When you lose one of your own, it's tough to get over that hump, and it's something you don't forget. As far as closure's concerned, I don't see that happening any time soon."