Man gets jail time, probation for illegally possessing pills

HOLLIDAYSBURG – An Altoona man found guilty of illegally possessing three anti-anxiety pills when arrested by police after a bar fracas 20 months ago was sentenced this week to a short jail term and probation.

Brian Bantum, 38, who was found guilty by a Blair County jury in March of illegally possessing a controlled substance and public drunkenness, will spend three to 12 months in the Blair County Prison to be followed by 90 days’ probation, according to a sentence imposed Monday afternoon by Blair County Judge Daniel J. Milliron.

Bantum, a Philadelphia native, maintained during his trial that he was suffering from heartburn the night of Nov. 4, 2012, while he was in the Mason Jar Bar on Broad Avenue.

He said he asked if anybody had anti-acid pills, and a young woman handed him three pills.

Bantum didn’t check out the pills because it was dark in the bar.

Later that night, a disturbance broke out, and police were called.

While Bantum was not involved in the fight, he was among the patrons who were told to leave the bar.

After the bar was cleared, an officer spotted Bantum standing in the shadows of a nearby neighborhood church, and the officer, suspecting a possible break-in attempt, stopped to speak to Bantum, who contended he was trying to contact another person on his cellphone.

Because police suspected he was under the influence, they took him into custody and in searching him found the three pills, identified as Alprazolam.

Bantum has a prior record and at an April bail revocation hearing said he was on parole in Philadelphia County.

Milliron deferred Bantum’s sentence for 30 days, allowing him to decide if he wants to appeal his convictions.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.