Judge sends city man’s case to trial

Dickson to face child endangerment, drug charges

An Altoona man accused of spending nights smoking methamphetamine and marijuana will face trial on child endangerment and drug charges.

Joshua Dickson, 33,

of Altoona, allegedly smoked meth and marijuana with 35-year-old Angela Meadows at his home while Meadows’ 13-year-old daughter watched his two young children as well as Meadows’ 9-year-old daughter.

Altoona Police Detective Cpl. Terry Merritts testified at Dickson’s preliminary hearing at Central Court on Wednesday that Dickson told him about the pair’s overnight drug use — while Dickson’s girlfriend was working third shift — as he started to investigate alleged child pornography and child prostitution activities of Stephen Apostolu back in June.

When Merritts and other Altoona officers bumped into Dickson outside Meadows’ Logan Hills Apartment on June 12, a pat-down for weapons allegedly turned up 4 grams of methamphetamine, a pipe and some cash.

When questioned after his arrest, Dickson allegedly admitted to getting methamphetamine and marijuana from Apostolu and that he was selling the drugs himself, Merritts told Magisterial District Judge Ben Jones.

Meadows, who waived her charges on Wednesday, told Merritts that Dickson and she got together at least 14 times and smoked both pot and meth in either the basement or the attic while the children were in the living room.

Merritts also testified that the girl divulged after Dickson’s arrest that he paid her with marijuana as well as money to babysit, and on one occasion, he invited her and another juvenile to his home without Meadows.

In that case, the girl said that Dickson gave her a marijuana joint to smoke and that she became scared after it “was “totally different” than the usual high she experienced after smoking pot, Merritts noted.

“He eventually admitted to her that the marijuana had been laced with meth,” Merritts testified.

Dickson’s attorney, Michael Adams, tried to shoot holes in the case by questioning Merritts about the so-called babysitting that occurred, pointing out that it seemed farfetched that the children, except for maybe the 13-year-old, would have stayed up all night on so many occasions.

“What level of babysitting was actually occurring?” Adams asked, suggesting that his client could not be held accountable for endangering the children if they were sleeping all night.

Adams also tried to suggest through questions that the 13-year-old’s knowledge of drugs would force the court to “question her veracity,” a line of questioning that was abruptly halted by Jones after an objection from Assistant District Attorney Amanda Jacobson saying that it was irrelevant at a preliminary hearing.

Adams also suggested the case against his client was built largely around hearsay and from the words of Meadows, a drug-using co-defendant.

Adams also asked the judge to dismiss the drug charges since prosecutors still had no state police crime lab report confirming the substance found on Dickson when he was arrested was actually methamphetamine.

Jones, however, said the totality of the testimony provided enough evidence to send the case to Blair County Court. The judge also rejected a motion by Adams to lower Dickson’s $100,000 cash bail, citing the seriousness of the charges and Dickson’s lengthy prior criminal record.

Jones did address one issue brought up by Adams in the hearing — the length of time since his June 12 arrest until his preliminary hearing on Wednesday. The judge noted the delay was no fault of the prosecution or the defendant and was the product of several failed attempts to find a court-appointed attorney who could represent Dickson without a conflict with the five other defendants in the Apostolu investigation.

Apostolu, who is jailed in lieu of more than $600,000 cash bail, saw his charges held for court at his preliminary hearing on Aug. 30. His girlfriend and mother of his two children, Kara Tornatore, whose bail is $500,000 cash, is due to appear for a preliminary hearing before Jones on Oct. 19.

Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.