City man wants jury to clear him

Defense says Weakland ‘overcharged’

HOLLIDAYSBURG — An Altoona man is asking a Blair County jury to clear him of several criminal offenses filed in a domestic dispute with family members who summoned police and said they were fearful.

The charges stem from the night of Feb. 26, 2017, when Joseph F. Weakland Jr. began arguing with his estranged wife and her parents at the parents’ residence on the 1900 block of Fifth Street.

That’s when he allegedly threatened to burn the house down and to shoot the father and tried to leave the house with two children, one 4 years old and one 3 months old.

“Joe was angry and mad, and everybody was yelling and screaming,” the estranged wife testified Monday about what she described as “a big chaotic scene.”

Defense attorney Scott Pletcher told the jury in his opening statement that police “overcharged” this case, which may have warranted a summary offense of disorderly conduct.

Assistant District Attor­ney Deanne Paul is asking the jury for convictions on charges of burglary, criminal trespass, terroristic threats, endangering the welfare of a child and recklessly endangering another person.

It’s a pretty straight-forward case based on eyewitness testimony, Paul told the jurors in her opening statement.

The estranged wife testified that she was the one who pushed Weakland out of the house, allowing her to tend to the children who Weakland tried to carry out of the residence, clutching one under each of his arms.

Subsequently, the family locked Weakland out of the house. In an attempt to get back in, family members said Weakland broke a glass panel of the enclosed porch so he could unlock its door. After being advised that police were summoned, the family said Weakland left.

Paul told the jurors that the family’s actions and fears were justified. When testifying, the family described him as intoxicated, which they think is the reason he subsequently crashed his vehicle. Weakland suffered injuries that left him hospitalized for about a month, trial testimony indicated.

Altoona police officer William Hanelly said he was the first to arrive at the house in response to a report of physical violence. He said Weakland wasn’t there when he arrived.

“Everybody was visibly upset,” Hanelly said. “(The father) was upset about being threatened with violence, and everybody was upset about the way the children were treated.”

The trial could wrap up today or Wednesday.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.