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Hearing in school threat case put on hold

Cantos allegedly directed vague messages to HASD

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A competency hearing was put on hold Tuesday for the Hollidaysburg man who allegedly admitted to threatening the Hollidaysburg Area School District in November 2019.

Blair County Judge Daniel J. Milliron, who was to preside over the hearing for Javier Alberto Cantos Jr., agreed to the delay after learning that efforts are progressing toward having Cantos render guilty pleas to some criminal charges in exchange for a recommended sentence.

If those efforts to reach a plea do not work out within 60 days, then the competency hearing should be rescheduled, Milliron said.

Defense attorney David Beyer told the judge he has been talking to District Attorney Pete Weeks about a possible resolution addressing Cantos’ criminal charges, with guilty pleas to some felony offenses excluding ones associated with the school district threats.

Beyer said he is advising Cantos against pleading guilty to the school threats based on his lack of competency. A mental health evaluation indicated that when he made the threats, his judgment was “extremely impaired,” Beyer said.

Cantos, based on police reports, allegedly contacted Hollidaysburg schools and left vague messages, including ones indicating that he would “reallocate resources.”

In addition to charges linked to the threats, Cantos also needs to answer criminal charges, including ones filed in November 2018 when Cantos allegedly stole a $67,925 vehicle from an Altoona car lot, then tried unsuccessfully to flee police on Interstate 99.

Beyer said that the negotiated sentence recommendation could include inpatient care allowing Cantos to address mental health conditions that were to be the focus of Tuesday’s competency hearing.

Milliron, who may or may not be the judge who sentences Cantos, showed interest in that option.

“We’ve got to take care of his mental health,” Milliron said.

Meanwhile, a former intern with the Hollidaysburg Area School District, who was wrongly accused of making the anonymous threats that Cantos allegedly made, continues to pursue legal action in U.S. District Court in Johnstown. Attorneys representing Scott Vinosky say their client’s rights were violated when he was arrested without probable cause.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 814-946-7456.

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