Accused dealer’s texts permissible in trial

Prosecutors will be able to use text messages found on a cellphone to establish that an Altoona man, Ti Alexander Williams, 23, may have been involved in arranging illegal drug deals, according to an opinion handed down this week by Blair County Judge Timothy M. Sullivan.

Williams was arrested last August after leading police on a chase that came to an end when his Dodge Durango hit a guardrail near First Street and Caroline Avenue.

After his vehicle became disabled, Williams, according to charges, fled on foot but was eventually caught when another officer pulled his car in front of Williams, enabling pursuing police to take him into custody.

Police, in backtracking from the scene of the accident, found bags of marijuana and heroin and located a cellphone that Williams agreed was his.

He was charged with 26 counts including fleeing police, escape, criminal use of a communication facility, possession of a controlled substance, DUI, tampering with evidence and possession with intent to deliver.

Williams’ attorney, Douglas Keating, filed a pretrial petition asking that much of the evidence be suppressed and that text messages found on the phone be barred from use during a trial.

In searching through Williams’ phone, police found two messages, on Aug. 19 and Aug. 26, from someone desiring to buy drugs from Williams.

In his opinion, Sullivan concluded the value of the text messages as evidence outweighed any prejudice to the defendant.

The judge stated that Williams admitted that the cellphone and the drugs found near the crash scene were his.

The messages, Sullivan said, “tend to establish the defendant utilized the phone to arrange illegal drug transactions.”

The fact that Williams discarded his phone could lead the jury, as finders of fact, to establish “consciousness of guilt at the time of trial,” Sullivan stated.

Williams told police he initially fled from Altoona Police Officer Derek Swope, who tried to stop his vehicle for a possible traffic offense, because he didn’t have insurance on his vehicle.

The suspect’s next court appearance is scheduled for Aug. 17.