Alleged dealer’s contests denied by Blair judge

Milliron says he has no power to conduct review

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A Blair County judge has denied most of the legal challenges a Philadelphia man offered to contest criminal charges accusing him of distributing large amounts of heroin and cocaine in 2016 and 2017.

In a 37-page ruling released Thursday, Judge Daniel A. Milliron permitted almost all of the criminal charges against Damon Tyshawn “Fat Cat” Devine to remain intact for a jury trial scheduled March 18 to 29 in county court.

Based on the Milliron’s ruling, Devine is to be tried on 24 counts of possession with intent to deliver heroin and cocaine, two counts of participating in a corrupt organization, one count of dealing in the proceeds of unlawful activity and a count of conspiracy to manufacture, deliver or possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance.

Those charges developed from a grand jury presentment issued in July 2017, with prosecution responsibilities in the hands of Senior Deputy Attorney General Dave Gorman and Blair County First Assistant District Attorney Pete Weeks.

In his latest ruling, Milliron rejected most of the arguments from defense attorney Francis Wymard of Pittsburgh on Devine’s behalf, including one that points to what the defense believes is inaccurate information given to the grand jury. Milliron said he has no power to conduct a review of the information. That kind of review, the judge said, rests with the grand jury’s supervising judge or the state Supreme Court.

But Milliron did rule in favor of the defense when he said Devine shouldn’t answer charges of reckless endangerment and aggravated assault. Both were filed in connection with an August 2016 multiple-vehicle crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Montgomery County.

After reviewing a preliminary hearing transcript, the judge said that defendant Jabu Robinson, as the driver who declined to stop for a traffic violation, was responsible for his own actions that contributed to the crash. Devine, as a passenger, cannot be held responsible for Robinson’s actions.

After the crash, police officers searched the vehicle and found 3,750 packets of heroin and 124 grams of crack stored in two shoe boxes in the trunk. As alleged in a grand jury presentment, Robinson and Devine were reportedly bringing those drugs from the Philadelphia area for distribution in Altoona and Johnstown.

Milliron also found enough evidence to support charges of assault by prisoner and witness intimidation, also filed against Devine in 2017, based on a district court incident while awaiting Devine’s preliminary hearing.

Wymard tried to convince Milliron to dismiss the assault by prisoner charge by suggesting that any resulting injury was “so slight” that no evidentiary pictures were taken. Wymard also pointed out that at the time of the allegedassault, Blaine Jackson of Johnstown was one of Devine’s co-defendants who was at district court to face his own charges and not as a witness.

Milliron disagreed after reviewing documents indicating that Devine had called Jackson “a snitch,” prompting Devine to move his handcuffed hands in an upward motion to strike Jackson’s head.

“These alleged actions,” the judge said, “especially given the usage of ‘snitch’ or other derivative of such terminology … can be viewed as an attempt to intimidate Blaine Jackson (who Devine believed to be a testimonial witness against him) with knowledge that such conduct would, at least, obstruct or interfere with Mr. Jackson’s potential testimony relating to the commission of a crime.”

Both the assault by prisoner and witness intimidation charges, Milliron said, should be considered independently from Devine’s drug trafficking charges.

A jury hearing all the charges, Milliron said, may inappropriately focus on the alleged assault and allow it to prejudice them when considering Devine’s drug-trafficking charges.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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