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First jury trial since March canceled

Grum pleads guilty to retail theft charges

HOLLIDAYSBURG — The first jury trial slated to be held during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was canceled Monday after the defendant rendered guilty pleas.

Blair County’s largest courtroom was ready Monday to accommodate the trial with jurors to be seated inside and outside the jury box so they would be at least 6 feet from each other, a recommendation to lessen the potential COVID-19 exposure.

As sometimes happens before a jury trial starts, the defendant rendered guilty pleas for a recommended sentence. The action by John P. Grum, 44, of Altoona, put Judge Daniel J. Milliron in a position to send the jurors home and cancel what was to be a two-day trial.

Grum pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony count of retail theft and misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest and providing false identification to law enforcement officers.

Assistant District Attorney Jessica Weil said Grum will serve two years probation.

Grum also faces possible jail time, she said, when resentenced for violating parole associated with earlier offenses.

Defense attorney Doug Keating said Monday that Grum’s possibility of jail time will be addressed during a parole violation hearing in Centre County. Online court records show he had retail theft convictions in that county in 2016 and was sentenced to two to four years in prison, followed by probation. He was also eligible for early release, based on the Centre County sentence.

On Dec. 24, Logan Township police arrested Grum and William R. Heiss, 29, of Altoona, whose criminal charges are still pending, in the Logan Town Centre shopping complex. The pair had been inside Dick’s Sporting Goods, then fled from the store, with police able to catch and arrest them.

The store manager advised police that he thought Grum, while inside a dressing room, had been concealing items while Heiss acted as a lookout.

Store personnel said Heiss also tried to make a credit card purchase which didn’t work, then indicated that he had to go outside to his vehicle for another means of payment. Store personnel said he didn’t return and Grum, meanwhile, grabbed a metal bat and headed to the rear of the store, fleeing through a storage room entrance.

Five additional jury trials, the first to be held since March when trials were canceled because of coronavirus concerns, are scheduled through the third week of this month.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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