Blair judge approves terroristic threat charges

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A Blair County judge will allow charges of terroristic threats to stand against an Altoona man who told a friend that he would like to kill his former bosses at the Blair County Arts Foundation, then get out of town where no one would find him.

Attorney Joel Peppetti challenged the charges by pointing out that Brian Charles McConnell, 43, had no reason to believe that the statements he made on Nov. 29, 2012, were going to be relayed.

But once the statements were relayed, Altoona police were contacted and an investigation led to charges against McConnell, filed in April.

“A reasonable mind could interpret [McConnell’s] statements as viable threats to the safety and welfare of the alleged victims,” Kopriva concluded in a recently filed opinion.

McConnell was a part-time technical director at the Mishler Theatre until losing his job in the fall of 2011. In November 2012 while speaking with Gary Fickes, then technical director at the Mishler Theater, Fickes said McConnell complained about his former bosses and threatened to kill two of them.

“He said he would shoot both of them, get on his bike, ride out of town and no one would ever find him,” Fickes testified at a Sept. 23 court hearing before Kopriva.

While Peppetti tried to convince Kopriva that the conversation was nothing more than conversation and that it didn’t meet the legal definition of a terroristic threat, District Attorney Richard Consiglio argued otherwise.

“This isn’t just some idle threat thrown out there,” Consiglio told Kopriva at the hearing. “This is so specific. … When [McConnell] tells them he’s going to do it, that’s a lot different than saying, I hate them or I don’t like them.”

Kopriva’s opinion referenced a 1993 Superior Court ruling indicating that the crime of terrorist threats requires the commonwealth to prove that such threat was communicated “with the intent of terrorizing another or with reckless disregard for the risk of causing terror.”

Kopriva said McConnell could not tell his friend “such a grave threat” and expect his friend not to convey that threat. That established the “reckless disregard for the risk of causing terror,” Kopriva said.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.