Man acquitted in assault
HOLLIDAYSBURG — An Altoona man was acquitted Tuesday of aggravated assault and reckless endangerment charges filed against him in 2019 after he got into a fight at UPMC Altoona with health care and security staff.
The Blair County jury, which heard the evidence in support of the charges against Kyle B. Kagarise, 35, reached not guilty verdicts on the more serious offenses and one guilty verdict on a misdemeanor offense of disorderly conduct.
President Judge Elizabeth Doyle, who presided over Kagarise’s trial, will address the single conviction on Jan. 15 when she is scheduled to sentence Kagarise on unrelated charges. He is currently an inmate in the Blair County Prison.
For Tuesday’s trial, Assistant District Attorney Jessica Weil built a case against Kagarise based on testimony from several witnesses involved in or responding to the fight. She also offered a hospital video from April 5, 2019, showing Kagarise, then a patient, fighting with hospital personnel in a hallway.
Weil told the jury that in the fight, Kagarise intentionally assaulted a security officer and an emergency room technician. Kagarise put others in danger too, she said, as they attempted to subdue him and stop him from leaving.
Defense attorney Robert Donaldson told the jury that Kagarise had gone to the hospital for medical attention and had been there for eight hours when he decided to leave.
Upon being told he couldn’t leave, Donaldson said his client lashed out and started yelling. That drew the attention of hospital staff who attempted to keep him from leaving, he said, plus the attention of others who joined in the effort.
“He had no criminal intent,” Donaldson told the jury in his opening statement. “This was a guy in trouble.”
Testifying witnesses estimated that the scuffle drew the attention of about 15 people, including emergency room staff, security officers and a physician.
An emergency room technician who testified told the jury that she injured her hand during the fight. She said it was caught between Kagarise and a security officer, leaving her hand bruised and swollen.
Donaldson countered that testimony by asking her to review the statement rendered shortly after the incident. In that statement, she said her hand was injured while it was “under someone” but the statement didn’t specify who.
Jurors for the trial, held in Courtroom 4, on the newer side of the courthouse, were directed to sit in the rear of the courtroom where chairs were arranged so they were seated farther apart than they would be seated inside the courtroom’s jury box. The seating arrangement, set up in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, has allowed the county court system to continue holding jury trials. Visitors interested in the trial are directed into the jury box where every other seat is available.