Attorney for Baez seeks separate trial

HOLLIDAYSBURG – Attorneys for two men who were at Choices Nightclub last Halloween when Willie S. Solomon of Altoona was shot dead say they do not want their clients tried together.

Hugo Baez, 20, of New York is charged with murder in the Solomon death.

Brandon A. Midder, 24, of Altoona was allegedly present at Choices when the shooting occurred, and he faces a variety of charges, including aggravated assault of Solomon, several firearms violations and attempting to help Baez flee Blair County.

But, Midder is not charged with Solomon’s murder.

Blair County First Assistant District Attorney Jackie Bernard wants the two tried together, but in a status conference in the case which occurred late Monday afternoon, Attorney Thomas M. Dickey, for Baez, and attorney Steven P. Passarello, representing Midder, told Blair County Judge Elizabeth Doyle they do not want a joint trial.

The defense and prosecution attorneys aired their sides of the controversy in a status conference with Doyle, and she decided to schedule a hearing in her courtroom on May 5 to hear arguments before making a decision.

Just after the status conference with Doyle, Dickey filed his pretrial motions in the homicide case, and he outlined the reasons why it would not be a good idea to try the two suspects before one jury.

He said testimony used against one of the defendants may not be admissible against the other defendant.

The veteran defense lawyer said if that is the case, a jury would be hard pressed to separate the testimony against each defendant.

He said “a substantial risk of confusion exists.”

Dickey argued that Midder did not participate in the same acts as Baez, and he said the defenses for each suspect could be incompatible.

Passarello also has protested a joint trial.

Doyle held the status conference in her office, and as the attorneys emerged after a 40-minute session, they emphasized that no trial date has been scheduled.

Baez and Midder, Solomon and Solomon’s brother, Jacob Dormevil Jr., 20, were all at Choices on Oct. 31.

According to testimony during the preliminary hearing, there was continuing tension between Baez and Dormevil, and after verbal comments between the two, they supposedly agreed to go outside and fight.

In his pretrial motions filed with the Blair County Prothonotary and Clerk of Courts Monday, Dickey contends the evidence does not support charges that the killing of Solomon was intentional or that it occurred during the commission of a felony.

He is asking that first and second degree murder charges, each carrying a life sentence, be dismissed.

Dickey is asking that statements by Baez be suppressed because he was asked questions by police prior to being informed of his right to remain silent.

The defense wants the video suppressed because it has not been properly authenticated, and Dickey is requesting an out-of-county jury hear the case.

He stated an impartial jury cannot be selected in Blair County.

While the pretrial hearings will begin May 5, they are likely to take more than one day, according to the judge and attorneys.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.