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Drug, firearms suspect renders guilty pleas

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A former Hollidaysburg man was on his way to a residential drug treatment facility Thursday after rendering guilty pleas in Blair County Court to several drug charges and gun law violations.

Ryan J. Harshaw, 33, assured President Judge Elizabeth Doyle that he would voluntarily enter the specialty treatment program offered in Quakertown by Pyramid Healthcare Inc.

In response, Doyle told Harshaw that she wanted to receive progress reports from the facility that will influence his sentence, currently scheduled for Sept. 1.

“Your behavior, from now until the day of sentencing, will be given extremely heavy weight at sentencing,” the judge said.

Harshaw, before rendering the plea, was scheduled for a two-day jury trial that would have started Thursday on charges Altoona police filed in August 2018. That’s when Harshaw and Kristin M. McCoy were found unconscious in an Altoona motel room by staff who believed the couple had overdosed.

Responding police officers initiated an investigation that led to Harshaw and McCoy’s arrests, plus the seizure of 4 ounces of methamphetamine, $3,000 in cash and a stolen Smith & Wesson M&P 9 mm handgun.

At the time of his arrest, Harshaw allegedly admitted to police that he sold methamphetamine and described himself as “a middle man.”

He and defense attorney Thomas M. Dickey subsequently challenged the criminal charges during pretrial procedures. As a result, the gun-related charges were separated from the drug offenses, setting the stage this year for two jury trials.

The guilty pleas Harshaw presented Thursday addressed the drug and gun charges filed in August 2018, plus additional drug charges that Hollidaysburg Borough police filed in April.

The April charges developed from a January search of Harshaw’s residence, at that time on the 400 block of Hart Street in Hollidaysburg, after police became suspicious of packages being delivered there.

During the search, police found and seized methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia, cash, owe sheets and powdery substances. Laboratory reports, rendered in April, confirmed that the substances were synthetic narcotics.

Dickey advised the judge that Harshaw, instead of proceeding to trial, was ready to enter guilty pleas to charges of possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine, possession with intent to deliver cocaine, possession of a prohibited firearm and carrying a firearm without a license.

“He wants to get these matters behind him,” Dickey said.

Defense Attorney Kristin Anastasi, who represents Harshaw on the charges filed in April, affirmed that position on charges of criminal use of a communication facility, criminal conspiracy to possession with intent to deliver and two counts of possession with intent to deliver.

Doyle reminded Harshaw, who indicated in court that he now lives in Williamsburg, that his guilty pleas were presented without a sentence recommendation. As a result, she said she will be in a position to impose what she believes is an appropriate sentence.

Assistant District Attorney Katelyn Hoover said Thursday that she didn’t yet know what kind of sentence she will recommend. She said she will need to review his presentence investigation report before offering a recommendation.

Doyle also acknowledged in court that her acceptance of Harshaw’s guilty pleas will resolve as many as three pending jury trials.

The acceptance of the pleas, the judge added, also puts Harshaw in a position to begin his rehabilitative process to his benefit and to the benefit of the community.

“Don’t miss that van,” Doyle told Harshaw of his transportation to the residential drug treatment facility.

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

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