Judge delays jury decision

HOLLIDAYSBURG – A Blair County judge has delayed a decision on whether to order an out-of-county jury for the trial of a Claysburg man accused of using a prison computer to send threats to the community last October.

Adam Christopher Hardin and his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Jason Imler, were before Blair County Judge Timothy M. Sullivan Thursday to present their pretrial motions.

Hardin, 24, a former member of the National Guard, faces a series of criminal charges in Blair County, some of which stem from the theft of an Army Humvee from the Fort Indiantown Gap military installation in Lebanon County last year.

While in prison on Blair County charges of receiving stolen property (a Humvee), Hardin is alleged to have used a computer in the prison’s law library to email threats to a local television station and the Mirror indicating there was a bomb in the Blair County Courthouse set to explode upon the calling of a particular case.

That threat led to an evening search of the courthouse and the evacuation of the neighborhood around the structure. No bomb was found.

About 36 hours later, the Mirror received an email threat stating area water supplies and their delivery systems contained toxins.

These emails resulted in the closing of many restaurants and other businesses in the Hollidaysburg area for the weekend until it was determined the threat was unsubstantiated.

A tip led investigators to look into Hardin, and they discovered he was an Army information technology specialist with almost 800 hours of computer training. He was arrested and faces multiple charges of terroristic threats, tampering with a public water system, unlawful use of a computer, criminal use of a communication facility and other offenses.

Imler argued Thursday that the publicity has unfairly prejudiced the community against Hardin.

He said, “I can’t believe anybody in the Hollidaysburg area didn’t know about or feel the effects of these cases.”

Potential jurors, Imler said, have been given “significant” information about the case through the news media, and they will come into court with set ideas about the issues, he said.

Blair County District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio agreed that there was publicity about the threats when they first occurred, but there has not been a lot of publicity for many months, meaning the initial intense public feeling about the case has had time to abate.

Sullivan did not rule on the venue issue, stating he would follow Blair County’s normal procedure, which is to attempt to select an unbiased jury, and if that turns out to be difficult, then he would either send the case to another county for trial or select jurors in another county and bring them to Blair for the trial.

Three years ago, Sullivan followed that procedure in the Sean Allen homicide case, agreeing to an out-of-county jury when a local jury could not be impaneled.

While the judge delayed a decision on the request for a change of venue, he did make rulings on other aspects of the charges against Hardin.

Imler reported that Hardin was recently sentenced for theft of the Army Humvee in Lebanon County.

State court records reveal Hardin received six months to two years minus a day for eight charges surrounding the Humvee theft.

Hardin is alleged to have stolen the 1979 Humvee on Aug. 14, 2013.

Sullivan, upon hearing from both Imler and Consiglio, dismissed the Blair County charge against Hardin of receiving stolen property, since the theft and receiving charges stemmed form the same set of facts.

The judge also ordered separate trials for Hardin on the various offenses he has been charged with.

The prosecution proposed trying all his cases at once, but Imler asked the prison computer case be severed from the rest of the charges. The judge agreed.

Other offenses against Hardin contend he damaged a gate at Blue Knob State Park by driving the stolen Humvee into the gate so he could drive it on the park’s trails. That incident occurred July 7, 2013, court records show.

He is charged with stealing a toolbox from a logging site on Aug. 11, 2013, and he faces simple assault charges stemming from an incident on Nov. 15, 2012, in which he allegedly assaulted a family member.

Imler also said he wanted to talk to state police Trooper Todd Roby to help the defense understand how police identified Hardin as the person who sent the threats. Consiglio had no objections.

The defense attorney said after talking to Roby he will decide whether to request the appointment of a computer expert to help prepare his case.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.