Judge supports parole

HOLLIDAYSBURG – A Mexico native agreed Monday to withdraw a request for a hearing on his conviction for drug possession after Blair County Judge Daniel J. Milliron said he would agree to support the inmate’s parole from a state correctional institution.

Milliron said he wasn’t bargaining with Salvadore Guzman-Garcia, 42, stating he intended to support the parole request no matter what.

Guzman-Garcia has spent the past eight years behind bars and Milliron said he felt that was enough time for bringing nearly 18 pounds of “pure marijuana” to the Altoona area in February 2006.

The defendant told Milliron he was hoping to be released on parole when his minimum sentence expires in February.

The state board of probation and parole routinely asks the sentencing judge and the prosecution to give their opinions about possible release of a defendant when the minimum sentence is completed.

Milliron said he intended to give his okay to the release of Guzman-Garcia.

The judge said that the Blair County District Attorney’s Office will not recommend parole for Guzman-Garcia, who is serving his sentence at the State Correctional Institution at Forest in Marienville.

But, before Guzman-Garcia could be released, he had unfinished business before Milliron.

The judge was requested by Guzman-Garcia to grant him the right to file a post-sentence appeal of his convictions on drug offenses and to his eight-to-16-year prison sentence.

Hollidaysburg attorney Paul M. Puskar, representing Guzman-Garcia, was in court Monday to argue that the defendant should be permitted to request a post-conviction review of his case, even though the initial request was not properly filed and the time for filing a post conviction request elapsed.

Guzman-Garcia spoke from the state correctional facility by videoconference, while Puskar, Deputy District Attorney Wade Kagarise and the judge were located in a courtroom of the county courthouse.

Stephen Fleming of Centre County served as an interpreter for Guzman-Garcia.

The judge told Guzman-Garcia he was in favor of his release and would communicate his opinion to the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole.

With that in mind, Guzman-Garcia had to decide if he still wanted to continue to challenge his convictions and have a hearing.

“This is not a negotiation. … You have served eight years, which represents what I see as justice,” the judge told Guzman-Garcia.

Milliron then cleared the courtroom to allow Puskar and Guzman-Garcia to talk about the situation.

The judge offered a caveat, stating that even though he favors parole he could not guarantee a favorable decision by the state board.

After talking to Guzman-Garcia, Puskar said it was his client’s desire to withdraw his request for permission to file post-conviction motions.

Kagarise did not comment during the hearing.

Guzman-Garcia, initially listed as a resident of Harrisburg, was arrested in Blair County nearly eight years ago when a Blair Township police officer clocked him traveling almost 60 mph in a 45-mph zone.

Police detected a sizable amount of marijuana in the back of the vehicle.

A search of the car turned up a .454-caliber Taurus handgun hidden near the battery under the hood of the vehicle.

The 7,000-gram block of marijuana was tightly bundled in a plastic bag and green paper. It was valued at $90,000.

He was convicted of possession with intent to deliver marijuana, possession of marijuana, an illegal alien not to carry a firearm, having no license to carry a firearm, possession of drug paraphernalia, driving under the influence of marijuana, driving with a suspended license, speeding and having no rear lights on his vehicle.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.