HOLLIDAYSBURG - Andre Staton, the death row inmate who struck his attorney in a Blair County courtroom last week, has been charged with assault by prisoner, an offense that carries with it life behind bars.
This is the first time such an offense has been filed in Blair County, but Deputy District Attorney Jackie Bernard said the charge is warranted because Staton lashed out and seriously injured attorney Tim Burns of Ebensburg.
Burns said he suffered a "full-blown" concussion in the attack and has had to cut back on his legal work. While he is seeking financial redress from Blair County, county officials said Burns is contracted to represent inmates in their appeals and therefore not a county employee entitled to benefits.
Burns said he is seeking legal advice regarding his situation.
Trooper Patrick Snyder of the state police at Hollidaysburg has completed his investigation into what occurred during Staton's post-trial hearing on May 13.
Staton wanted Judge Elizabeth Doyle to recuse herself from his case, which she refused to do, and he insisted he be permitted to represent himself in court, a request also rejected by Doyle. Burns said he was opposed to Staton representing himself.
When the hearing was over, Staton, without warning, raised his belted arms slightly and swung his cuffed hands into Burns' face, knocking him to the floor.
Snyder charged that Staton, an inmate who has been sentenced to death, assaulted Burns "with his shackles/hands, causing bodily injury to the head/face of Burns, to include a concussion."
"You can't allow defendants to act this way," said Bernard, pointing out that Burns was appointed to represent Staton in his post-trial appeals from a first-degree murder conviction and death penalty imposed for the 2004 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Beverly Yohn.