Suspects want nightclub shooting video barred from upcoming trial

HOLLIDAYSBURG – Defense attorneys for Hugo “Juice” Baez of New York and Brandon A. Midder of Altoona argued Tuesday that a video of a shooting last Halloween night at Altoona’s Choices Nightclub should be barred as evidence in their upcoming trials.

Baez, 21, is charged with killing Willie Solomon, 22, of Altoona, while Midder is accused of pistol whipping the critically injured victim and aiding Baez’s attempt to flee.

The two men are scheduled to be tried together, but their attorneys want separate trials.

The defense is asking Blair County Judge Elizabeth Doyle to prohibit the use of a videotape purporting to show Baez shooting a gun at Solomon’s brother, Jacob Dormevil, and then turning and firing toward Solomon who was behind him.

Baez’s defense attorneys David Kaltenbaugh and Thomas Dickey argue that police should not have taken custody of the club’s videotape because Baez had an expectation that what occurred in the club was “private,” and police didn’t have cause to confiscate the tape immediately after the shooting.

Kaltenbaugh and Dickey, as well as attorney Steven P. Passarello, representing Midder, have asked that evidence collected as a result of two search warrants that were issued in the case be barred because police, at the time they requested the warrants, lacked probable cause to conduct a search.

The hearing Tuesday afternoon was the defense attorneys’ first chance to challenge the evidence against their clients.

Doyle soon will receive transcripts of the preliminary hearings held for Baez and Midder.

Blair County First Assistant District Attorney Jackie Bernard and Assistant District Attorney Peter Weeks believe the judge can decide the pretrial issues by reading the transcripts, but on at least one point, Kaltenbaugh is asking that Doyle hold a hearing.

The point at issue occurred within hours of the shooting.

Police had a description of the shooter, and state police in Huntingdon County spotted the suspect car driven by Midder and stopped it for a traffic violation. Baez was a passenger in the vehicle.

After state police stopped the car and asked the names of those inside, Baez is alleged to have identified himself as “James Santos,” a name he used while in Altoona, police contend.

This exchange occurred before Altoona police arrived at the scene in Huntingdon County and before Baez had been advised of his Miranda right to remain silent.

Kaltenbaugh wants a hearing on what occurred, and he and Dickey have asked that the false answer Baez allegedly provided be barred from the homicide trial.

Doyle said she would set aside two hours for a hearing within a few weeks.

Passarello said after the hearing that he is focusing on two issues. He wants Midder to have a separate trial, contending that Midder, who is not charged with the Solomon murder, will be prejudiced because a jury will have a hard time separating the facts applicable to each suspect.

Passarello also is challenging the charges, stating the testimony at the preliminary hearing did not support many of the offenses Midder is facing.

Midder is charged with firearms violations, aggravated assault and tampering with evidence.

Baez is accused of first-degree murder, aggravated assault, firearms offenses and presenting false identification to law enforcement.

Not all of the evidence has been collected. DNA test results and tests for gun residue on Baez’s clothes are still being processed.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.