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Blazier found guilty on 7 counts

Jury acquitted former Bellwood-Antis wrestling coach on some charges

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A former Bellwood-Antis School District wrestling coach is facing a lengthy prison sentence after being convicted Friday of seven sexual assault charges arising from allegations of two student wrestlers.

Ryan L. Blazier, 41, who has been in Blair County Prison since he was arrested in February 2020, was acquitted of nine related sexual assault offenses by a jury that took about seven hours to deliberate at the end of the four-day trial.

“I think the jury thought about the verdicts and unanimously decided that Ryan Blazier sexually assaulted both victims,” District Attorney Pete Weeks said Friday night. “The verdicts also indicate that the jurors believed Mr. Blazier threatened both victims with violence and told them not to report what was happening.”

The jury returned guilty verdicts on charges of aggravated indecent assault, institutional sexual assault, corruption of minors and intimidation of a victim/witness applicable to one of the student victims.

It also rendered guilty verdicts on charges of institutional sexual assault, corruption of minors and intimidation of a victim/witness applicable to a second student.

The jury acquitted Blazier of one count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse by force, two counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse where the victim is less than 16, three counts of institutional sexual assault and three counts of indecent assault where the victim is less than 16.

Blazier showed no emotion as the verdicts were read aloud in court.

Defense attorney Thomas M. Dickey described his client, who has maintained his innocence from the beginning, as disappointed with the guilty verdicts.

“Absolutely we’ll appeal,” Dickey said. “There were some rulings in this case that we have issues with, and we’ll get into that later, after sentencing.”

Judge Daniel J. Milliron, who presided over the trial, scheduled Blazier’s sentencing for Jan. 26, after completion of a presentence investigation report is finished. The judge also revoked Blazier’s bail options so Blazier will remain in prison through sentencing.

Weeks and First Assistant District Attorney Nichole Smith declined to speculate on the length of prison time Blazier could face as a result of the convictions. But Weeks said he will be asking the judge to consider maximum penalties.

This was a tough case, Weeks said, especially for the two teenagers who agreed to come into court and testify against their former coach and a school district that didn’t stand behind them. The testifying youths are now 16 and 15 years old.

“When I was their age, I couldn’t have done what they did,” Weeks said.

In her closing argument, Smith said the teenagers “fought their fears” to bring the case to court.

After the verdicts were rendered, she again credited the teenagers.

“It was not the school district that stopped this predator,” Smith said. “It was the children.”

Weeks and Smith also credited state police at Hollidaysburg for their investigation into the youths’ allegations.

One of the students accused Blazier of assaulting him in the spring of 2019 in the middle school’s small wrestling room. The student said he and Blazier were wrestling when Blazier pulled down the student’s pants and inserted his fingers into his butt.

While the teenager initially kept quiet about what happened, he later disclosed that the sound of the janitor’s keys in the door knob brought the assault to a halt.

“The verdicts show that the jury chose to believe Mr. (Thomas) Gority, despite all the efforts to discredit him,” Smith said.

The defense called in school district personnel who criticized Gority’s work Gority also reported telling three administrators about what he saw, each of whom testified that he didn’t.

The second student accuser told the jury that Blazier sexually assaulted him several times in late 2019 and early 2020, also in the small wrestling room. He said Blazier would regularly grab and touch his genitals while they were wrestling.

That student also accused Blazier of inserting something hard into his butt during an assault. Trial testimony offered only speculation as to what the item was, which might have been a factor in the “not guilty” verdicts on involuntary deviate sexual intercourse charges.

When the initial guilty verdicts were announced in court shortly after 8 p.m., one of the student victims and his parents, sitting in the front row of the public seating area, embraced and cried.

Others in the public seating area, including parents, friends, several teenagers and members of the Guardians of the Angels motorcycle group, seemed to sigh as the “not guilty” verdicts were announced.

Weeks also said that he found it “particularly disappointing” that in prosecuting this child abuse case, Central High School personnel refused to confirm that it hosted a wrestling tournament on Jan. 18, 2020.

One of the student victims testified during trial that he intentionally injured himself during a wrestling event at Central High to get away from the abuse he was enduring. Defense witnesses challenged his testimony, claiming the student was already injured before Jan. 30, 2020, when Bellwood-Antis wrestling schedule showed an event with Central.

Weeks had the victim’s parents and an attendee at the event offer testimony confirming that it was the Jan. 18, 2020, tournament where the student wrestler was injured.

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

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