Accused denies dealing in meth

Defendant claims he doesn’t know Jackson despite being friends on Facebook

HOLLIDAYSBURG — An Altoona man accused of making drug sales on behalf of Shawn Avery Jackson testified Thursday that he didn’t know nor did he communicate with Jackson in 2018 when the alleged drug sales occurred.

But Jackson and 32-year-old Gerell Shepard are Facebook friends, Altoona Police Sgt. Christopher Moser told a Blair County jury a half hour later, based on Moser’s quick search of the online website after hearing Shepard testify.

In support of Moser’s finding, Jackson’s and Shepard’s Facebook profile photos were displayed on a courtroom screen for the jurors to see.

“I have a lot of friends on Facebook I don’t know,” Shepard said in response. “Maybe I am friends with him … but I don’t know how I became friends with him.”

Judge Jackie Bernard is presiding over the trial scheduled to wrap up today at the courthouse with closing arguments and deliberations.

Thursday’s clashing testimony developed on the second day of the trial in which Shepard is challenging drug delivery and related charges based on testimony from a confidential informant and investigating police.

Charges against Shepard were filed in February 2020 when the state Attorney General’s office, along with state and local narcotics agents, named about 17 people allegedly involved in a Philadelphia-to-Altoona methamphetamine ring bringing thousands of dollars of illegal drugs to Blair County.

A grand jury investigation into the operation named Jackson as a key player. In late September, Jackson rendered guilty pleas to multiple drug-trafficking offenses in exchange for a sentence of 15- to 30-years’ incarceration, with potential eligibility for the state’s Recidivism Risk Reduction Initiative that could cut the minimum portion of Jackson’s sentence to 12.5 years.

While Shepard denied knowing Jackson, he acknowledged having a prior sexual relationship with the confidential informant. The informant told the jury that it was Jackson who directed her to Shepard to get drugs.

The informant, testifying Wednesday, told the jury that she paid Jackson in October 2018 for methamphetamine that Shepard later provided. She also told the jury that she worked with police to set up methamphetamine and fentanyl purchases from Shepard in November 2018.

Shepard started telling the jury Thursday that he believes the informant “swindled” the investigating police officers to benefit herself. The defendant’s speculation, however, prompted an objection from state Deputy Attorney General Michael Madeira that prohibited further explanation.

Shepard also referenced his sexual relationship with the confidential informant to counter what trial testimony has indicated were drug sale references. A text message the informant sent in October 2018, asking when he could bring her bag to her, is in reference to an overnight bag, Shepard explained.

Police reported working with the woman to set up drug buys that had them watching her pick up Shepard after work and acquiring drugs from Shepard when they were at the rear of a Greenwood apartment complex. Shepard said he was living, at that time, in an apartment at the rear and that he had, at one point, enlisted the woman’s help with moving furniture because she had a truck.

Madeira reminded Shepard that the confidential informant told the jury that she used her truck to help him move furniture. So she would be telling the truth about that, Madeira said.

Defense attorney Richard Corcoran later asked Shepard: “Is she telling the truth about delivering drugs to you on Nov. 2 and Nov. 6,” Shepard said no.

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


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