HOLLIDAYSBURG - The attorney for a 24-year-old Altoona man facing attempted murder charges said his client should be freed on nominal bail because he has not been given a speedy trial.
Assistant Public Defender Ed Ferguson said late Tuesday that Joshua S. Shannon, 24, of the 1500 block of 15th Street has been behind bars for 220 days.
Court rules, Ferguson argued, say that a suspect who is incarcerated should be brought to trial within 180 days or be granted nominal bail, which in Blair County means bail of $1.
Blair County District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio said there is an exception to the 180-day rule: safety of the community.
He argued before Blair County Judge Timothy M. Sullivan that Shannon is charged with the attempted ambush murder of a Coupon area man, Mervin Lee Sollenberger.
Consiglio said he believes that the victim would be in danger if Shannon were released on nominal bail.
Shannon knows the area where Sollenberger lives, Consiglio said, adding the victim is in fear of the his alleged assailant.
In addition, Consiglio said that a jury will be selected to try Shannon at the end of April.
Shannon is charged with attempted murder of the first degree, two counts of aggravated assault, simple assault, terroristic threats and harassment.
According to arrest documents, Shannon last Aug. 29 appeared at Sollenberger's home and asked if he could help him because his vehicle was stuck.
The two rode off on an all-terrain vehicle, with Sollenberger driving and Shannon as a passenger.
Charges indicate Shannon asked Sollenberger to stop the vehicle because he lost his cellphone. Shannon got off the vehicle and then, it is contended, struck Sollenberger across his face with a club.
A fight ensued with Sollenberger pulling a club from his ATV. Shannon is alleged to have hit Sollenberger again.
Sollenberger was able to drive away.
When examined at a hospital, it was determined that Sollenberger had been shot twice.
Consiglio stated it was only by the grace of God the victim didn't die, having been shot in the face.
He called the assault a "clear-cut, perpetrated ambush."
If Shannon were placed on bail, Consiglio said, "Who is going to stop this guy [Shannon] from attempting to shoot this guy [Sollenberger] again?"
Ferguson said the facts as cited by the district attorney are not so clear-cut. He said that self-defense might be an argument for the defense, and he said a home that was shot up in Altoona on Dec. 27, he suspects, was in retaliation for the attack on Sollenberger.
Sullivan took the case off the bench to study the law. He said he will rule quickly on the speedy trial question.
Another problem that arose Tuesday involved the defense contacting prosecution witnesses.
Consiglio said he can't stop the witnesses from talking to the defense, but he said they also can decide not to talk to the defense. He said he wanted to make the judge aware of the situation.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.