Judge debating trial for man accused of terroristic threats

HOLLIDAYSBURG – A Blair County judge must decide if an Altoona man will stand trial for terroristic threats against his former employers, even though those threats weren’t made directly to the alleged victims.

Brian Charles McConnell, 43, faces three counts of terroristic threats because he allegedly talked about shooting officials of the Blair County Arts Foundation with a .357 Magnum handgun and then getting on his Harley and leaving town, noting nobody would ever be able to find him.

McConnell supposedly had animosity toward officials of the Arts Foundation because he had been fired from his job at the Mishler Theatre.

McConnell never personally aired this proposed plan directly to foundation officials, but he allegedly talked about it when a former colleague came to his Altoona audio business.

He allegedly went into a “tirade” when the former colleague was in his business on Nov. 29, according to the charges filed by Altoona police.

During the alleged conversation, he became very specific about what he wanted to do. The alarmed colleague informed those involved and eventually talked to police about McConnell’s statements. Altoona Detective Ashley D. Day investigated the case and filed the terroristic threat charges.

The police affidavit stated that McConnell initially denied he made any such statements but then admitted he might have said he had a dream about carrying out such a plan.

McConnell and his attorney, Joel D. Peppetti, appeared Monday before Blair County President Judge Jolene G. Kopriva and contended that McConnell in making such statements had no intent that they be relayed to the victims.

The defense attorney said that for McConnell to be tried for terroristic threats, he had to have known the colleague would relay the comments to the victims, thereby having the intent to terrorize them.

He said McConnell was only talking to a friend, not with the intent of having the threats getting back to the alleged victims.

It’s not a crime if he doesn’t know that his friend will relay the comments to the victims, Peppetti argued.

Blair County District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio said the threats were made against a background of animosity between the parties that had been going on for a year. He said McConnell made the statements with “reckless disregard” for the consequences. He said anybody hearing of such a specific plan would relay the threats to the intended victims.

Pointing to the victims in the courtroom, Consiglio said, “These people are significantly concerned even today about this threat.”

Kopriva gave the attorneys 10 days to file legal briefs in the case. She will then decide if there is enough evidence to go to trial.