Prostitution ring suspects face trial
Three people who police say tried to rob a City Hall Commons man in an alleged prostitution scheme will face trial.
Amber N. Schwartztrauber, 20, of 1121 20th Ave. is accused of setting up a man for the robbery after he refused to pay $500 to have sex with her, a plan the two had discussed in the hours leading up the the July 24 incident at the man’s apartment.
Thomas N. Birkl, 20, of 1407 N. Fifth Ave., and Jonathan D. Long, 23, of 1423 Third Ave., are accused of helping Schwartztrauber carry out her plan to rob the man, according to testimony Wednesday at a preliminary hearing at Central Court on the charges.
“I never had the money,” the alleged victim in the case told Magisterial District Judge Jeffrey Auker, adding that he told Schwartztrauber he didn’t have the cash after the two had arranged he pay her $250 up front and then another $250 after they had sex.
Altoona police Detective Sgt. Ashley Day testified it’s unclear as to whether the two had sex or not, but he said police didn’t believe the claim that the man owed Schwartztrauber any money.
The alleged victim’s father testified he saw Schwartztrauber, Birkl and Long, who had brought along his 3-year-old daughter, knocking at his son’s apartment door about 8 p.m., but his son wasn’t home. About an hour-and-a-half later, he got a call from his son telling him it was important he stop by his son’s apartment.
The father testified that when he got there, Birkl and Long were inside, and his son appeared to have been assaulted. The son told the court that after Schwartztrauber arrived at his apartment that night, Birkl and Long barged in, held him down, threatened and assaulted him while demanding the money.
Then Birkl told the father he had a gun and demanded the he get the $500, he testified.
“I told him, ‘I ain’t paying you no money,'” the father said.
After Birkl and the father walked to the nearby home of a friend of the father, Birkl ran off without collecting any money when someone at the home told him they were calling the police, the father testified.
When questioned by Schwartztrauber’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender David Beyer, about whether the alleged victim had made advances toward Schwartztrauber or had sex with her that day, the father said it was never discussed.
“He never told me that,” the father said, adding that his son “gets mixed up with all these women.”
Beyer argued the state has no case against his client since Schwartztrauber
wasn’t present during the alleged assault and was simply trying to collect money she was owed. At most, she could be charged with solicitation, but it wasn’t among the charges filed by police, Beyer said.
Birkl’s court-appointed attorney, Douglas Keating, argued charges against Birkl should be thrown out since there was no forced entry, and child endangerment-related charges stemming from the fact Long’s 3-year-old daughter was briefly at the scene were also improper since his client wasn’t responsible for the child, an argument Long’s court-appointed attorney, Mark Zearfaus, echoed.
Prosecutor Amanda Nehrkorn-Jacobson argued that with the testimony, including admissions in statements by Schwartztrauber and Birkl, provided enough evidence to send the case to court and argued the alleged victim had no obligation to pay anyone the $500. Auker agreed and sent all charges on to Blair County Court.
Long, who posted 10 percent of $5,000 to make bail Aug. 1, failed to appear at the hearing, prompting Auker to revoke his bail. Schwartztrauber and Birkl were remanded to Blair County Prison, their bail remaining at 10 percent of $5,000.
Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.