Man to stand trial for courthouse feud
HOLLIDAYSBURG – Justin D. Weible, 34, of Altoona thought his appearance before Magisterial District Judge Paula Aigner of Hollidaysburg Tuesday morning was all about “massive civil rights violations” that occurred when he visited the Blair County Courthouse earlier this month.
Sheriff’s deputy Lt. Samuel L. McClure thought his appearance in the district magistrate’s office was about a citizen – Weible – who became unruly in the Blair County Courthouse, caused a ruckus and had to be subdued, handcuffed and taken to the Blair County Prison for several hours.
Weible on Tuesday argued that his rights were violated while he was in the courthouse on July 3, but Aigner said his constitutional argument would be something to present to the Court of Common Pleas. It wasn’t her task, she said, to determine a question that Weible maintains stems from a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision last year.
Aigner did find there was enough evidence to send Weible’s case to the county court for trial on charges of illegal interception of communications, resisting arrest, defiant trespass and disorderly conduct.
According to Weible and McClure, the only witness to take the stand during Tuesday’s preliminary hearing, the case began when Weible went into the Office of the Blair County Prothonotary Carol Newman to obtain information he thought would help him fight a traffic citation in Tyrone.
It came to McClure’s attention through other deputies who were with an inmate posting bail in the prothonotary’s office that Weible was videotaping the conversation he was having with Newman.
McClure and First Deputy Sheriff Holly Garner went to the office and saw Weible’s cellphone propped against his wallet on the counter, and a red light was flashing. The deputies informed Newman she was being recorded, and she told Weible to stop.
From that point, the situation escalated when Weible refused to stop recording, and, according to McClure, “He started to spout off his constitutional rights he could do whatever he wanted to do.”
McClure eventually took custody of the cellphone and told Weible he could have it back if he would leave the courthouse.
Weible rejected the proposal and went to the sheriff’s office to complain.
McClure said Weible used expletives to refer to him and used foul language heard by employees and visitors to the sheriff’s office.
Weible, who is disabled and walks with a cane, was subdued, handcuffed and arrested.
He cited a U.S. Supreme Court decision that he said gives him the right to videotape public officials doing their jobs, and he noted that there are cameras throughout the courthouse recording just about everybody.
He maintains his cellphone should not have been confiscated without a warrant, although a warrant was obtained to search the cellphone after it was confiscated.
McClure said that recorded voices could be heard on the cellphone.
State law prohibits audio recordings without all parties’ consent, except in certain situations.
Weible said his rights were violated when his Social Security card and driver’s license were photographed.
McClure said he had to do that because Weible refused to provide him with personal information.
Weible concluded his presentation by listing several court decisions that he said support his right to videotape.
But Assistant District Attorney Emily Freed said the evidence presented was enough to send the charges to court – including illegal recording of a conversation.
As the hearing concluded Weible said he would obtain a lawyer now that the case has been forwarded to the county court. He said he wants a jury trial.
Aigner said his next appearance in court would be for arraignment before a county judge on Sept. 5.