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City man: ‘I want to clear my name’

Gibson continues appeal of drug conviction despite end of prison sentence

HOLLIDAYSBURG — An Altoona man still wants to raise appeal issues to criminal court proceedings that led to his conviction on drug-related charges in August 2011, even though he has finished the incarceration portion of his sentence.

“I shouldn’t have been arrested in the first place,” Shawn E. Gibson said Tuesday when asked why he wants to continue the appeal since the jail time has been served. “I want to clear my name.”

Gibson was sentenced in 2012 to five to 10 years in jail for possession with the intent to deliver and two related counts.

Gibson has been out of prison since July 8, when released on a bail order issued by Blair County Judge Daniel J. Milliron on June 26 in connection with Gibson’s current post-conviction appeal.

While Milliron rescinded the bail order on July 11 — after concluding that he lacked authority to grant bail to a state prison inmate — Gibson has remained free and is now living in Altoona.

First Assistant District Attorney Pete Weeks, during a court hearing Tuesday, told Milliron that the DA’s office isn’t requesting Gibson’s return to jail.

Any incarceration time imposed as part of a new sentence, Weeks said, will likely be covered by the time that Gibson has already served.

Milliron said he would agree, then looked at Gibson and asked if he understood that a future sentence might include time-served incarceration.

Gibson said, “yes,” then confirmed his desire to follow through with his appeals.

Milliron, in response, reaffirmed the appointment of Hollidaysburg attorney Paul Puskar to represent Gibson in his post-conviction appeal.

Gibson previously raised some post-conviction appeals with the state Superior Court, contending that his trial attorney, Joel Peppetti, was ineffective in challenging the evidence filed against him.

While a three-member Superior Court panel in 2013 dismissed Gibson’s complaints and upheld his sentence, the panel concluded that Gibson could challenge his lawyer’s representation through an appeal.

During the jury trial, Gibson tried to challenge all drug-related charges linked to a drug deal on July 21, 2009, and a search of his residence the following day. Drug investigators reported finding several small bags of cocaine in the trap of a toilet at his residence, but Gibson said they weren’t his. Instead, he suggested that the drugs could have been placed there during a birthday party at his residence, when many people used the bathroom.

Also during his trial, the jury asked Milliron to reread the definition of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.

At Weeks’ suggestion, Milliron read a definition that differed from the one originally presented. Five minutes later, the jury returned to court with its verdict slip showing “not guilty” crossed out and “guilty” written in.”

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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