Herring now on trial in drug ring case
HOLLIDAYSBURG — An Altoona man accused of making five methamphetamine sales in 2019 for his role in a Philadelphia-to-Altoona drug trafficking organization is on trial this week in Blair County Court.
Darwin Maurice Herring Sr., 39, represented by Pittsburgh attorney James E. DePasquale, is asking the jury to recognize that prosecutors have no photographs of him making illegal drug sales nor do they have his fingerprints on drug packaging materials.
Deputy Attorney General Michael Madeira countered that stance with his first witness, Altoona Police Sgt. Christopher Moser who has been involved in hundreds of drug investigations.
Illegal drug sales in Blair County don’t occur “out in the open,” Moser told the jurors. He explained how he and other investigating police officers worked with a confidential informant who contacted Herring and arranged to make methamphetamine purchase at a Greenwood motel on March 21, 25, April 10, 15 and May 8 of 2019.
As for the lack of fingerprints on plastic bags containing methamphetamine, Moser said it’s been his experience that those bags don’t retain a fingerprint.
DePasquale also suggested that police should have secured a search warrant after the alleged drug deals were completed. With a search warrant, the defense attorney said, they would have been to track what happened to the money the confidential informant supposedly paid to Herring.
“That would have ended the investigation,” Moser said. “At this point, Mr. Herring wasn’t the only person we were investigating.”
Herring was one of 17 people the state Attorney General’s office identified in February 2020 as part of a methamphetamine ring that was operating in Blair County in 2018 and 2019. The ring was accused of bringing thousands of dollars of the illegal drug to Blair County, according to the results of a grand jury investigation.
The confidential informant who worked with police told the jurors Monday that she was buying methamphetamine regularly in 2018 from Shawn Avery Jackson of Altoona, before Jackson introduced her to Herring.
The grand jury presentment identified Jackson as a key player in the organization who depended on several people to sell methamphetamine. Jackson in late September, rendered guilty pleas to his drug-trafficking charges in exchange for a sentence of 15- to 30-years’ incarceration.
Herring is the organization’s second member to opt for a jury trial on criminal charges that include five counts of delivery of methamphetamine and single counts of criminal conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine and criminal use of a communications facility.
A jury that heard similar charges last week against Gerell Shepard of Altoona convicted Shepard of four delivery offenses and acquitted him of two additional offenses. He remains free on bail pending a Jan. 11 sentencing.
Judge Jackie Bernard is presiding over Herring’s trial, slated to continue through Wednesday.
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 814-946-7456.