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Drug trial conviction will lead to prison

Jury deliberates less than a half hour to find Shepard guilty

Shepard

HOLLIDAYSBURG — An Altoona man faces a state prison sentence after a Blair County jury took less than a half hour Friday to render four convictions based on 2018 drug sales to a confidential informant.

Gerell Shepard, 32, who contested the charges and tried to convince the jury that the informant lied, will remain free on bail until his Jan. 11 sentencing.

“The defendant is going to jail in this matter,” state Deputy Attorney General Michael Madeira told Judge Jackie Bernard in support of a request to revoke Shepard’s bail.

Madeira said that based on the standard range of the state’s sentencing guidelines, Shepard could be looking at seven years’ incarceration if the sentences are imposed consecutively.

The jury convicted Shepard of two felony counts of delivery of methamphetamine, one felony count of delivery of methamphetamine and fentanyl and one felony count of criminal use of a communication device. The jury acquitted Shepard of an additional count of delivery of methamphetamine and a count of criminal conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine.

Defense attorney Richard Corcoran protested when Madeira asked Bernard to revoke Shepard’s bail.

Corcoran said his client had a full-time job and family members who live in Altoona. Shepard has never missed a court hearing while his charges were pending, Corcoran said.

Bernard agreed that Shepard’s bail will remain intact until sentencing, with new conditions that include checking in three times a week with the county probation office and avoiding all contact with the confidential informant.

Violating any bail condition could lead to incarceration, Bernard said.

Corcoran said he intends to ask prosecutors to take another look at the evidence. In his closing, the defense attorney said the case was built on the testimony of a confidential informant who wanted to get out of jail.

The confidential informant, who testified Wednesday, said she contacted Altoona Police Sgt. Christopher Moser while she was incarcerated in 2018 and agreed to work with drug law enforcement officers to purchase drugs that would result in arrests.

She also said she had finished serving time in a state prison and has no pending charges.

Shepard, who took the witness stand in his own defense, told the jury that he and the confidential informant knew each other in 2018 when they had a sexual relationship. But he never provided her with drugs, he said.

Corcoran pointed out that none of the drug law enforcement officers witnessed an exchange of drugs between the woman and Shepard.

Officers, however, ex­­plained to the jury how they worked with the woman to arrange purchases and how she brought drugs to them after meeting with Shepard. They opened evidence packages in court to show methamphetamine and fentanyl she acquired.

Corcoran and Shepard suggested that the woman turned over drugs that she had managed to conceal from police and not drugs acquired from Shepard.

When Madeira gave his closing argument, he asked the jurors to reject that argument. He pointed to text messages between Shepard and the confidential informant in November 2018, when the woman asked Shepard about the cost of a “G,” referring to a gram of methamphetamine. Madeira asked the jurors to recall that it was Shepard who indicated that $150 was the price and texted: “Can’t go lower.”

The confidential informant also linked Shepard to Shawn Avery Jackson of Altoona, who was identified in February 2020 as a key player in a Philadelphia-to-Altoona methamphetamine ring bringing thousands of dollars of illegal drugs into Blair County. The woman said she was getting methamphetamine from Jackson until he directed her to Shepard. In September, Jackson rendered guilty pleas in exchange for a sentence with 15- to 30-years’ incarceration.

Shepard testified Thursday that he didn’t know Jackson or have any communication with him in 2018. Upon hearing that testimony, Moser searched Facebook showing the pair as friends.

While Shepard countered that he doesn’t know all of his Facebook friends, Madeira pointed out that Facebook Messenger was the most commonly used texting platform in this case.

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

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