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Suspect appreciates drug court opportunity

Flinton man will serve 18 months in program because of judge’s error

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A former Altoona man convicted in May of delivery and possession of a substance made to look like heroin has been sentenced to participate in Blair County’s drug court program for up to 18 months.

“I see something in you,” Blair County Judge Timothy M. Sullivan told 33-year-old Brandon L. Maybush of Flinton in court on Friday while handing down the sentence.

In response, Maybush, an Army veteran who has served in Afghanistan and Iraq, told Sullivan that he was looking forward to the opportunities drug court will present.

The new sentence and Maybush’s entry into drug court resolves a conflict that developed shortly after July 23 when Sullivan sentenced Maybush to drug court. While Sullivan intended to assign Maybush to the typical 36 months of drug court, on the bench he told Maybush his drug court sentence was 18 months.

Sullivan, upon realizing the discrepancy, vacated the original sentence in a July 26 order and indicated that a new sentence would be crafted.

The judge’s plan drew objection from defense attorney Kristen Anastasi, who said the July 23 sentence should remain intact.

In court on Friday, Sullivan imposed a new sentence that assigns Maybush to drug court for up to 18 months followed by five years’ probation. Anastasi advised the judge that both she and First Assistant District Attorney Pete Weeks were in support of the new sentence.

Sullivan also acknowledged his fault when issuing the original sentence.

Sullivan, who presides over drug court sessions held every other Friday at the courthouse with dozens of participants in various stages of the program, will be monitoring Maybush’s participation.

Drug court, as managed by the county’s parole and probation office, imposes rules and offers encouragement for participants to remain law-abiding residents. Those who fail to comply are at risk of being removed from the program and returned to criminal court for a new sentence that can include incarceration. Those who do well can graduate early.

While on trial, Maybush took the witness stand and described himself as a relapsed heroin addict on Sept. 14, 2016, when he and co-defendant David Walter were accused of selling fake heroin to a confidential informant.

Maybush told the jury that Walter crushed up pills to look like heroin and set up a cash sale at Union and Sixth avenues. Walter, who testified at Maybush’s trial, acknowledged crushing up the pills and said it was part of plan he and Maybush came up with to get cash to pay for a heroin purchase in Johnstown.

Trial testimony indicated that Walter completed the sale from his vehicle, by tossing a canister with the fake heroin past Maybush who was in the passenger seat, so the canister landed in the buyer’s vehicle.

The jury listening to the evidence in the case acquitted Maybush on a criminal conspiracy charge to deliver a controlled substance. But the jury convicted him of possession with intent to deliver, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

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