Charges against Blazier separated
HOLLIDAYSBURG — The jury trial scheduled at the end of August for a former Bellwood-Antis School District wrestling coach is expected to focus only on the sexual assault allegations of two male student wrestlers.
Sexual assault allegations against Ryan L. Blazier by a third alleged victim, a girl, must be considered separately from the wrestlers, Blair County Judge Daniel J. Milliron said Wednesday.
“I wanted to try these cases together,” Milliron said in court where he reviewed the status of the case and spoke of his decision to grant the severance requested by defense attorney Thomas M. Dickey.
In a July 9 petition seeking the severance, Dickey pointed out that the criminal charges against Blazier developed from different settings and different scenarios involving the alleged victims.
While the male wrestlers were allegedly assaulted at school in late 2019 and early 2020, the girl’s claims developed from allegations reported to Blair County Children, Youth & Families in December 2019.
All charges were filed by state police at Hollidaysburg based on an investigation.
Milliron, in court Wednesday, spoke of learning new information last week about the girl’s allegations. Even though he offered no specifics, he said it was sufficient enough to grant the severance and proceed with plans for two jury trials.
The first trial, focusing on the allegations by the two male student wrestlers, is scheduled for Aug. 31 to Sept. 3.
As for a second trial, Milliron said it may or may not be possible to schedule before his retirement at the end of the year, but that would be his preference.
Dickey also stated in court on Wednesday that based on an earlier agreement with prosecutors, he remains in a position to raise legal challenges to the criminal charges Blazier faces. Those charges include
child rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, aggravated indecent assault, institutional sexual assault and related offenses.
First Assistant District Attorney Nichole Smith acknowledged the agreement and suggested addressing those challenges during trial. She said that would prevent having to call in a witness for testimony shortly before trial, then having the same witness come back to testify at trial.
In late June, Milliron convened a pretrial hearing to consider arguments in favor of allowing the alleged victims — one of the student wrestlers and the girl — to testify via video from outside the courtroom. The option is available, if approved by a judge, where children have been deemed incapable of testifying in court.
Dickey, who has already raised objections to that arrangement, told Milliron that he wanted to offer one more argument in favor of his position. Milliron advised that he expects to render a decision soon.
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 814-946-7456.