Trial set for two charged in assault

Frank, Wakefield accused of attacking fellow inmates

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Two men facing criminal charges in attacks on two inmates and the sexual assault of one at the Blair County Prison are scheduled for trial Monday.

Charles M. Frank, 44, and Maurice D. Wakefield II, 24, who were among six inmates charged in connection with the March 2017 incidents, were in court Thursday with defense attorneys to address motions filed in preparation for trial.

After hearing brief arguments, Judge Wade Kagarise found no problem with District Attorney Richard Consiglio’s plan to introduce testimony about Wakefield calling a witness a “rat” after a preliminary hearing concluded.

It shows a consciousness of guilt, Consiglio said, prompting defense attorney Scott N. Pletcher to disagree.

It’s just an animal term, one that prison inmates use frequently with each other, Pletcher said.

On another request, Kagarise deferred a ruling to restrict trial testimony about why one of the assaulted inmates was transferred to the prison block where the assaults occurred. The inmate was allegedly transferred as a disciplinary action, after being found with the drug Suboxone.

The judge said he would wait for witness testimony before deciding if that reason has any relevance to be included in the trial.

Frank and Wakefield are each charged with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated assault, conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, assault by prisoner, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and related charges.

Hollidaysburg Borough police, who investigated and filed the charges, collectively accused six inmates of plotting to or attacking one inmate, then subsequently going after a second inmate who had tobacco in his rectum. The involuntary deviate sexual intercourse charge stems from alleged attempts to forcibly retrieve the tobacco.

Three of the six inmates, including Frank, who is represented by attorney Robert Donaldson, were slated for trial in February. But the trial came to a halt on the second day after a juror reported developing a bias and discussing her observations with fellow jurors.

On March 12, two of the inmates who were on trial with Frank — Zachary Moore of Altoona and Curtis W. Ramsey of Tyrone — entered guilty pleas in exchange for negotiated sentences of 14 to 28 years for Moore and six to 12 years for Ramsey. Ramsey has since advised the court that he wants to withdraw his guilty pleas and go to trial. A court hearing on that request is scheduled in April.

Pletcher also mentioned in court on Thursday that he is interested in having Allen Grager, an inmate at the state prison in Huntingdon, transported to the courthouse to testify in Wakefield’s defense. Grager, who was also charged in the incident, entered guilty pleas in November in exchange for a sentence of eight to 20 years.

Pletcher, in early March, filed a petition on Wakefield’s behalf, claiming a lack of evidence in support of the charges against Wakefield, despite a conclusion reached June 20 by Magisterial District Judge Paula Aigner. Kagarise dismissed Pletcher’s petition but advised that if the trial fails to generate enough evidence in support of the charges, the request can be renewed after the prosecution rests.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.