Court upholds convictions in heroin ring
Three members appealed lengthy prison sentences
The Pennsylvania Superior Court has upheld the convictions and lengthy prison sentences imposed on three members of a Pittsburgh-to-Johnstown heroin ring that also reached into other counties such as Blair, Huntingdon, Indiana, Allegheny and Erie.
The trio included Massai Dickey, 48, and Ryan Baumgardner, 42, of Johnstown, and Krista Mader, 29, of Venango County.
They were among 33 individuals arrested in 2017 as part of Operation Flood City Smackdown that brought an end to a group headed by Curtis Harper of Pittsburgh.
All three challenged sentences they received from Cambria County Judge Tamara Bernstein following their convictions in 2017.
Dickey is serving 12.5 to 25 years at the State Correctional Institution at Houtzdale, while Baumgardner is serving nine to 18 years at SCI Fayette.
Mader received an initial sentence of 18 to 40 years. The sentence was modified to 14 to 40 years on Jan. 11, 2018. She is incarcerated at SCI Cambridge Springs.
The same three-judge Superior Court panel that included Jacqueline O. Shogan, Alice B. Dubow and Correale F. Stevens, wrote the opinions in all three cases.
The panel on Monday dismissed the appeals of Mader and Baumgardner because their defense lawyer failed to include a required statement outlining the reasons supporting the appeal.
Both Mader and Baumgardner were contending that the trial judge sentenced them based on “speculative evidence.”
Mader stated her sentence was based on guidelines for someone delivering over 1,000 grams of heroin.
She contended in her petition the amounts involved in her deliveries came to less than 100 grams.
Baumgardner, who was convicted on two counts of possession with intent to deliver, two counts of participation in a corrupt organization and one count each of conspiracy and criminal use of a communication facility, argued his sentence was incorrect because it too was based on the incorrect weight of the drugs involved in his sales.
The Superior Court judges stated “(Baumgardner) avers the trial court erroneously based the offense gravity score, and resulting guideline sentence, on speculative evidence that (he) possessed between 100 and 1,000 grams of heroin when the evidence proved (he) possessed 2 grams of heroin.”
Mader and Baumgardner were required to clear certain legal hurdles to challenge sentences that fall within the realm of the judge’s discretion.
Because they did not file a “concise statement” outlining their reasons for appeal their sentences were upheld.
Dickey, represented by Ebensburg attorney Timothy S. Burns, filed a timely appeal, and properly preserved the issues at his sentencing, but the panel concluded his appeal did not raise a substantial question.
He claimed the sentencing judge failed to recognize his role in the heroin operation was “minor” and his prior contact with the law “occurred many years ago.”
The Superior Court panel ruled on Feb. 22 that “an allegation that the sentencing court failed to consider mitigating factors generally does not raise a substantial question for our review.”
The judge had the benefit of a presentence investigation report, and Dickey’s sentence was within the standard range, the Superior Court opinion stated.
Dickey was found guilty on one count of conspiracy, three counts of possession with intent to distribute, two counts of participating in a corrupt organization and one count of criminal use of a communication facility.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office and the Cambria County Drug Task Force used controlled purchases of heroin and the interception of more than 7,800 phone calls to build their cases against the trio.
Harper, it was charged, transported heroin from Pittsburgh to Johnstown.
Dickey was among those responsible for distributing the heroin locally.