Assault charges stand

HOLLIDAYSBURG – Troy S. Stehley of Altoona, accused of twice kicking an unconscious man in the head after a dispute in a bar last October, will have to stand trial on a charge of aggravated assault, according to a ruling this week by Blair County President Judge Jolene G. Kopriva.

The victim died within weeks of the incident, but according to findings by the judge, “the victim’s injuries were not the proximate cause of the victim’s death.”

Stehley allegedly assaulted Keith J. Morrissey, 47, who died on Oct. 28, 2013, three weeks after Stehley, 33, was charged with twice “punting” Morrissey’s head after the victim was lying unconscious on the 1000 block of Seventh Avenue.

Stehley was charged by police with aggravated assault, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, harassment and disorderly conduct.

The suspect through his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Jason M. Imler, asked that the aggravated assault charge be dismissed. The defense argued that Stehley at the time of the incident did not have the intent to inflict serious bodily injury on Morrissey.

The defense stated the victim did not testify or talk to police about the alleged assault. Altoona detective Matthew Starr testified the victim’s jaw was broken in two places and was wired shut.

Imler contended the prosecution must show the defendant knew that a life-threatening injury was “essentially certain” to occur when he assaulted Morrissey.

Kopriva commented, “Lifting an unconscious person’s head and punting it like a football even one time could lead a reasonable person to conclude that a life-threatening injury is essentially certain to occur under such circumstances.”

According to the facts found by Kopriva, Stehley and Morrissey on Oct. 6, got into a verbal argument and were asked to leave the 10th Street Cafe.

Morrissey remained in the bar, and Stehley left. Thirty to 40 minutes later, Morrissey left the bar.

An off-duty paramedic at a nearby ambulance station witnessed Morrissey walking past and saw Stehley hit him with his hand. Morrissey appeared unconscious, the paramedic testified at a March 10 hearing. The paramedic then witnessed Stehley twice “punting the victim’s unconscious head.”

The medic tended to the victim who was bleeding from his nose and the back of his head.

Kopriva concluded the facts at this stage in the case could lead to a reasonable inference that an aggravated assault had occurred and refused to dismiss the charge.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.