Category: Armstrong County Court House

Adrian Man Pleads Guilty to Kittanning Robbery, Drug Possession

Brandon Shaffer of Adrian was incarcerated in the Armstrong County Jail following his drug arrest in March and might be sentenced to more time after he pled guilty to possession and the intended robbery of the Kittanning Honey Bear convenience store.

By Jonathan Weaver

An Adrian man wanted for a downtown Kittanning robbery in March pled guilty to that and a drug possession charge he was arrested for that month.

During a traffic stop conducted by Officers Greg Koprivnak and Joe Riskosky Friday, March 14, officers observed Aaron Doyle, 28 of Homer City, attempting to switch seats with licensed driver Brandon Shaffer, 29 of Adrian, but also saw a syringe and empty stamp bags of suspected heroin in the drivers’ side door compartment.

Continued search of the vehicle revealed additional drug paraphernalia, more than $3,600 in cash and three bricks of heroin.

During further interviews at the Borough police department on South McKean Street, Officer Eric Baum noted Shaffer’s demeanor and clothing matched a description and video footage of an attempted armed robbery suspect at the Honey Bear convenience store Sunday March 9.

Shaffer confessed to the crime.

Before Judge James Panchik, Shaffer said he could not go through with the crime for fear that he would be caught.
Because of no previous record, Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Charlton said the District Attorney’s office recommended six months to two years as a sentence.

However, due to the drug charges, Shaffer was recommended to spend several more years in the Armstrong County Jail.

The only felony charge in the second case was manufacture, delivery or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver a substance Shaffer said was bricks of heroin.

He also admitted guilt with intent to use cocaine found in the vehicle during the traffic stop.

Both Doyle and Shaffer were arraigned by District Magisterial Judge James Andring are charged with felony counts of possession of the drug with intent to deliver and misdemeanor use/possession of drug paraphernalia.

Doyle has not yet made any plea toward the charges against him, which also include three counts of misdemeanor possession and summary driving without a license.

Due to the attempted armed robbery, Shaffer was charged with felony robbery with the intent to injure another, recklessly endangering another person and disorderly conduct. Shaffer is also suspected of trying to sell the controlled substance without a label – a misdemeanor offense.

Sentencing has not yet been scheduled.

At least a few defendants who were on-schedule to plea to charges were missing during the last proceedings, including that of Daniel L. Wood, III. of Dallas, Oregon.

Wood was arrested by Kittanning Borough Police in March 2011 and charged with more than a dozen misdemeanor and felony crimes – including felony burglary, felony criminal trespass and several misdemeanor charges of theft from a motor vehicle or receiving stolen property.

Wood was originally released on his own recognizance by District Magisterial Judge James Owen a month after he was arrested, but several bench warrants have since been issued for his arrest.

Attorney Yost updated Judge Panchik that Wood was incarcerated in the state of Florida and has since been released into the custody of his grandparents in Oregon.

Assistant District Attorney Charlton did not object to continuing the case, but requested the bench warrant remain.


Plea Agreement Accepted in 2013 Criminal Homicide Case

Otilio Cosme of Ford City plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter as part of a plea agreement Thursday afternoon. Dennis Rosenberger of Kittanning plead guilty during a plea agreement in early July that also waived felony charges and the need for trial.

by Jonathan Weaver

Two of the men accused of criminal homicide in the death of James Sullivan in March 2013 have now accepted plea agreements to a lesser charge.
Thursday afternoon, Otilio Cosme of Ford City pled guilty to first-degree misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter before Judge James Panchik in the Armstrong County Courthouse in Kittanning Borough.
In exchange for pleading guilty to first-degree misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter due to his alleged actions March 17, 2013 at the Wick City Saloon along Montieth Street in Kittanning Borough, Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Charlton said that charges – including first-degree felony criminal homicide and aggravated assault – will be dropped.
No sentencing recommendation was made, but Armstrong County would recommend credit for nearly two months of time served in jail but the final decision will be made by the presiding judge.
District Attorney Scott Andreassi stood behind the plea agreement made.
“I think when you look at the facts of the case, when you look at the evidence the Commonwealth had, when you assess the witnesses that we were prepared to present, at the end of the day, the involuntary manslaughter was the correct charge in this case,” Andreassi said.
Charlton said what is considered an Anders Plea was accepted, but Cosme entered it not an admission of guilt but in his best interests.
“We rarely enter into these kinds of pleas,” Charlton said in court.
Judge Panchik hesitantly accepted the plea agreement due to not knowing if Cosme understood the consequences of his guilty plea rather than being presumed innocent at trial. Cosme said he has been threatened due to the alleged actions St. Patrick’s Day 2013.
“I don’t believe I can have a fair trial, sir,” Cosme said. “Because of the racism I’ve encountered and the threats that have been made.
“I’m accepting this plea because all of the other charges were taken off the table.”

Cosme later told Judge Panchik that he was not forced or threatened to plead guilty before Thursday’s plea.
Cosme was represented by Attorney Anthony Urti of Geary and Loperfito, LLC of Vandergrift. Urti – who has represented Cosme for about a year since being appointed by the court – said he and his client have discussed the details and ramifications of the plea “on multiple occasions.”
Urti said a motion was filed to change venue before and was not upheld.
Cosme and Urti said they are aware of the evidence secured against him through the Pennsylvania State Police investigation and have been told of the evidence found by Cosme’s own court-appointed criminal investigator.
If found guilty of the charge, Cosme could have been sentenced to five years in the Armstrong County Jail or paid $10,000 in fines or both if not for the plea agreement.
If Cosme did not plead guilty Thursday, jury selection would have taken place Monday morning. Prosecutors during a trial would have had to prove Cosme acted without desire to cause harm but with negligence.
Members of Sullivan’s family were in the courtroom for the plea. The family members present accepted the plea made, will complete a victim-impact statement prior to the October sentencing and be offered a chance to testify.

Last month, Dennis Rosenberger – originally of Kittanning – also accepted a plea agreement through the County District Attorney’s office and pled guilty before President Judge Kenneth Valasek to single counts of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault.  By virtue of the plea agreement, the other four charges levied against Rosenberger – including felony first-degree criminal homicide – were also waived and Rosenberger will not have to stand trial.

Rosenberger’s sentencing is scheduled in September.