City man sentenced for assaulting inmate
Kagarise hands down lengthy term despite suspect’s apology
HOLLIDAYSBURG — A 25-year-old Altoona man has been sentenced to nine to 18 years in prison for his role in the March 2017 assault of a fellow inmate with tobacco in his rectum.
Maurice D. Wakefield II told Blair County Judge Wade Kagarise in court Thursday that he was sorry about what happened to the victim and how things turned out that night.
“No person should have to go through what (the victim) did,” Wakefield said.
Despite that sympathy, a plea from Wakefield’s mother for leniency and legal arguments from Wakefield’s attorney, who asked for a new trial, Kagarise handed down the lengthy sentence in what the judge called a serious case with serious charges.
“It’s troubling that these offenses occurred while you were an inmate,” Kagarise told Wakefield.
Kagarise presided over the April jury trial in which Wakefield and fellow defendant Charles M. Frank were convicted of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, conspiracy to commit involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated assault, assault by prisoner, terroristic threats and related charges.
Trial testimony indicated they were two of six inmates involved in an organized effort to get plastic-wrapped tobacco from an inmate’s rectum. The victim told the jury he put the tobacco in his rectum so he could retain the contraband item while being transferred within the prison.
Trial evidence indicated that after the six inmates learned about the tobacco, they made a plan to lure the victim to a cell where they ordered him to expel it. When the victim couldn’t do that, testimony indicated that Frank donned a rubber glove and tried to retrieve it. And when that didn’t work, testimony indicated that toothbrushes were inserted.
Defense attorney Scott N. Pletcher asked Kagarise on Thursday to recognize that Wakefield “was merely present in that cell” and never touched the victim. Pletcher took the same position during trial where the jury deliberated about two hours and rendered guilty verdicts.
But District Attorney Richard Consiglio and Assistant District Attorney Amanda Jacobson depended on witness testimony and prison video to convince the jury that Wakefield played a role in the assault.
It was Wakefield who told the victim: “Give it up,” Jacobson told Kagarise.
Consiglio described Wakefield’s nine- to 18-year sentence as justified.
Pletcher said after the sentencing that he will appeal on Wakefield’s behalf, using arguments offered in court on Thursday when he failed to convince Kagarise to order a new trial.
Pletcher said Wakefield was “severely prejudiced” during a portion of the trial when jurors failed to realize they could resume taking notes. Frank testified during that time when jurors were not taking notes. He was a key witness, Pletcher said.
Assistant District Attorney Amanda Jacobson reminded Kagarise that he had offered instructions to the jurors about the oversight that was corrected. All the jurors got to hear Frank testify so the lack of notes wouldn’t warrant a new trial, Jacobson said.
Wakefield’s mother, Tina Lopez, asked the judge for leniency. She said he’s been in jail for three years, enough time to “get the drug use out of his system.” He was two days away from being admitted to a drug rehabilitation program when this incident occurred, Lopez said.
Of the six inmates charged in the assault, Frank received the longest sentence of 28 to 56 years, which Kagarise imposed in late June. At that time, the judge said Frank’s sentence reflected not only the offenses but also Frank’s lengthy criminal record and failure to reform.
Three other defendants rendered guilty pleas in exchange for recommended sentences. They are: Zachary Moore, serving 14 to 28 years, Allen Grager serving eight to 20 years and Curtis “Tank” Ramsey serving six to 12 years.
A sixth inmate, Dalaun Carroll, is expected to render a guilty plea in exchange for a recommended sentence.
Hollidaysburg police, who investigated and charged the six inmates, also filed criminal charges against former county corrections officer Dalton Zeiders. He was on duty at the time of the incident and allegedly had knowledge of what was going on. Zeiders has raised several pretrial arguments that are pending before the court. A hearing is set for July 20.
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.