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Judge hands down lengthy sentence in drug case

Forshey gets 17.5 to 35 years in prison

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A Blair County judge sentenced a Hollidaysburg man on Thursday to 17.5 years to 35 years in prison for four drug-related offenses, after recognizing the man’s lengthy criminal history with eight prior drug delivery convictions.

Judge Jackie Bernard told 39-year-old Michael Lee Forshey that his 39 arrests and 24 confinements show him to be incapable “of exercising any kind of self control” over an addiction that he has used to justify selling drugs.

“This (sentence) provides the best opportunity for protection of the community,” she said.

Bernard presided over Forshey’s jury trial in August, where Forshey was accused of supplying the heroin laced with fentanyl that led to the April 2, 2018, fatal overdose death of 46-year-old Ronald Baker of East Freedom at his home.

While the jury acquitted Forshey of drug delivery resulting in death, it convicted him of possession with intent to deliver, criminal use of a communication device, recklessly endangering another person and possession of a controlled substance.

The reckless endangerment conviction, Bernard told Forshey, meant the jury believed “that you did something to endanger (Baker).”

While reviewing Forshey’s criminal history, Bernard referenced opportunities he had to address his addiction.

She pointed out that he was living in a halfway house in Coalport on April 2, 2018, with permission of the state Department of Corrections, when he used a day pass to travel to the Hollidaysburg area. That’s where police say he provided heroin laced with fentanyl to Baker. Later that day, Baker was found on the bathroom floor of an East Freedom home, then transported to Conemaugh Nason Medical Center in Roaring Spring where he was pronounced dead.

District Attorney Pete Weeks asked Bernard to consider imposing maximum penalties, under the state’s sentencing guidelines, in light of Forshey’s criminal history and his failure to reform.

“He has already been provided with all the resources to do something better with his life,” Weeks said.

Bernard structured the sentence accordingly, assigning 15 years to 30 years on what will be Forshey’s ninth conviction for possession with intent to deliver, followed by 18 months to 36 months for criminal use of a communication facility, followed by 12 months to 25 months for recklessly endangering another person. No additional time was applied for possession of a controlled substance.

“It’s a sentence that holds Mr. Forshey accountable,” Weeks said. “But it’s also a case that shows how destructive illegal drug use can be in the community, for the victim and his family and for Mr. Forshey’s family, who came here today and spoke from their hearts.”

“My brother is a really good guy,” Forshey’s sister, Angela Forshey, told Bernard. “If he gets another chance, he’ll do good.”

Pastor Neil Edmundson told Bernard that Forshey can change by putting God in his life.

“He’s a great guy,” Edmundson said. “He just has an addiction.”

Fiancee Jacqueline Edmundson said Forshey’s incarceration has been hard on their family, which includes two children.

“He has had stretches where he was completely clean,” she said.

Forshey also appealed to the judge for leniency and told her that for the first time in years, he is feeling motivated to reform.

“I’m not a lost cause. I’m a drug addict,” Forshey said.

Defense attorney Doug Keating said he will file an appeal to the sentence that Bernard chose to impose.

“This sentence does not give the young man a chance,” Keating said. “It just warehouses him. And I don’t believe that he’s a danger to the community.”

When Keating addressed Bernard prior to sentencing, he pointed out that Forshey’s criminal history reflects his addiction, with several retail theft offenses that allowed him to get money to buy drugs.

“This is not a drug kingpin living in a big mansion,” Keating said.

Upon hearing Bernard announce that she was imposing maximum incarceration time for possession with intent to deliver, Forshey responded with his own objection.

“I didn’t know I could get no 15 years,” Forshey said, suggesting that if had known, he would have entered a plea in exchange for a sentence of 7.5 years to 15 years. After his comment, he turned away from the podium where he was standing and headed out of the courtroom with sheriff deputies following him.

“Where’d he go?” Bernard asked as she halted imposing sentence, then instructed deputies to bring Forshey back into the courtroom. She then finished pronouncing the sentence.

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

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