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Inmate loses bid to appeal lengthy prison sentence

Bellon convicted of drug-related offenses in 2006

A former Altoona man in prison for drug-related offenses that occurred more than two decades ago has lost his latest attempt to have his 31-year minimum sentence reduced.

Charles A. Bellon, now 41, argued to the Pennsylvania Superior Court that he had been denied a hearing before a Blair County judge who was under a federal court order to resentence him.

Senior Judge Hiram A. Carpenter of Blair County, who presided over Bellon’s trial in 2006, and who sentenced him to serve 31 to 62 years in a state correctional institution, was ordered by U.S. District Judge Kim R. Gibson to correct a portion of Bellon’s 2006 sentence.

A federal magistrate judge in Johnstown, Keith A. Pesto, determined that the Blair judge had sentenced Bellon to consecutive sentences of seven to 14 years for multiple offenses of possession with intent to deliver. Pesto found that the maximum sentence for possession with intent to deliver was only 10 years at the time of Bellon’s sentencing, and he recommended to Gibson that Bellon be resentenced to correct the mistake.

In resentencing Bellon, Judge Carpenter reduced the consecutive 14-year maximums imposed on Bellon to 10 years.

But the judge kept Bellon’s minimum sentence at 31 years — his new sentence being 31 to 46 years.

The defendant, through Philadelphia attorney Todd M. Mosser, appealed the new sentence to the Superior Court.

In its appeal, the defense questioned the legality of the 31-year minimum sentence and argued that Bellon should have been given a new sentencing hearing — as opposed to simply reducing the maximum sentences for the possession with intent to deliver charges.

“Bellon argues that, when the District Court ordered the trial court to change his mandatory maximum sentence, the trial court was obligated to change his mandatory minimum sentence because (the sentence) was no longer constitutional,” according to the defense.

The argument about the constitutionality of the law stems from a case in which the U.S. Supreme Court found Pennsylvania’s mandatory sentencing laws were no longer constitutional, but the Supreme Court’s Alleyne decision was not made retroactive to cover cases of inmates sentenced prior to 2013.

A Superior Court panel that included judges John T. Bender, Maria McLaughlin and John L. Musmanno ruled last week that Judge Gibson did not vacate Bellon’s prison sentence and order a new sentence but ordered the correction of only the maximum sentences for possession with intent to deliver.

“Consequently, Bellon cannot retroactively receive the benefit of Alleyne because he was not sentenced post-Alleyne,” the Superior Court opinion stated.

The panel also contended the defense argument that Bellon was denied the right to a hearing and to speak on his own behalf was improper, again emphasizing Gibson did not vacate the entire sentence.

Bellon is incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Benner Township, Centre County.

The defendant was charged due to his involvement in a “large-scale drug dealing operation conducted throughout Blair County and several surrounding counties from 1997 though 2001,” according to the Superior Court opinion.

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