Former city man seeks to have lengthy sentence vacated

Bellon, serving time for drug offenses, says 62-year maximum is illegal

In a final petition presented to the U.S. District Court in Johnstown, the attorney for Charles Bellon, a former Altoona resident who is serving time in a state correctional institution for drug offenses, argues that his client’s 62-year maximum is illegal, and he is asking a judge to vacate the sentence.

Attorney Todd M. Mosser of Philadelphia in a petition stated that Bellon was sentenced on several counts of possession with intent to deliver crack cocaine stemming from drug deals that date back to the 1990s and early 2000s.

Four of the sentences of seven to 14 years were run consecutively, to be served one after the other.

Mosser claims the maximum at that time for each of the sentences was 10 years, not 14 years, and, because of the error, which Mosser stated “has been ignored despite clear precedent,” he is asking the U.S. District Court to vacate the sentences.

Pennsylvania Deputy Attorney General Christopher J. Schmidt, in his answer to the Bellon petition filed last week, stated, “After reviewing the complicated and applicable law, (the prosecution) concedes the 14-year maximum sentences imposed on Bellon were beyond the statutory maximum.

“Bellon, however, admits the minimum sentences of seven years for the seven- to 14-year sentences are lawful,” he stated.

The Deputy AG opposes the vacation of the sentences and said the solution to the problem would be for the federal court to issue a writ giving the state court the opportunity to correct the sentence.

“If this court were to grant Bellon relief on his state illegal sentence claim, it should be limited to the issuance of a conditional writ and allow the state to reduce Bellon’s 14-year maximum sentences to 10-year maximum sentences, making Bellon’s respective maximum sentences lawful under state law,” according to the Schmidt petition.

Following that guideline, Bellon’s sentence would end up being 31 to 46 years rather than the 31 to 62 years imposed by Blair County Senior Judge Hiram A. Carpenter.

The petitions filed in the last couple of weeks have cleared the way for U.S. Magistrate Keith Pesto to make a recommendation on the petition by the defense filed late last year.

Bellon, through Mosser, is asking not only that his sentences be vacated, but that he be granted a new trial on several other charges.

The defendant, now 39, was initially sentenced to 20 to 32 years, according to a plea agreement in 2003.

Bellon, however, appealed that sentence that involved three counts of possession with intent to deliver, criminal use of a communication facility and one count of corrupt organizations.

The Superior Court permitted Bellon to withdraw his guilty plea, but, in preparing for a trial, the prosecution received court permission to reinstate 17 charges that had been dismissed due to the initial guilty plea.

Bellon, in his federal petition, is challenging the reinstatement of the charges, contending the statute of limitations had expired.

He also has charged that the prosecution withheld information from the defense that could have been used to attack the credibility of a key witness against him.

In 2006, Bellon was convicted of 11 counts of possession with intent to deliver, two counts of corrupt organizations and one count each of conspiracy, criminal use of a communication facility and dealing in unlawful proceeds.

Carpenter imposed the lengthy prison sentence Bellon is now serving, pointing out the drug organization Bellon led (he denies he was the leader) committed an estimated 11,000 crimes in Blair County, more than the number of days in a 30-year-period.

Bellon is serving his time in the State Correctional Institution at Benner in Centre County.