Gun provider pleads guilty
Kern faces 5 to 15 years in prison for offenses related to city shooting
HOLLIDAYSBURG — An Altoona teenager who provided the handgun used a year ago during a daylight shooting at a busy Altoona intersection will be serving five years to 15 years in prison.
William Edward Kern, now 19, rendered guilty pleas Friday in Blair County Court to firearm offenses associated with the shooting.
Kern also rendered guilty pleas to offenses that were filed in March, after he got into a fight with a county prison corrections officer, and to charges that were filed in February 2021 for his role in an effort to smuggle drugs and tobacco into the county prison.
Blair County Judge Timothy M. Sullivan, who accepted the guilty pleas and imposed the recommended incarceration, told Kern that he should take advantage of courses the state Department of Corrections makes available to inmates.
“You’re a young man,” the judge said as he looked at the shackled Kern dressed in red and white striped prison garb.
Chief Public Defender Russ Mongtomery also referenced Kern’s age and lack of financial resources when asking the judge to impose lower fines with the offenses.
“He’s going to be young when he gets out,” Montgomery said.
Assistant District Attorney Justin Shickman told Sullivan that Kern’s guilty pleas address five firearm offenses filed by Altoona police in June 2021.
They include third degree felony offenses of carrying a firearm without a license, two firearm transfer violations, prohibited possession of a firearm and a second degree misdemeanor offense of tampering with or fabricating evidence.
Altoona police filed those charges after identifying Kern as the person who secured a 9 mm handgun that he sold to 17-year-old Preston Weakland.
Weakland is accused of firing the weapon at two people on June 12, 2021, during a confrontation at 17th Street and Seventh Avenue, an area with passing traffic and pedestrians patronizing local businesses.
Court documents indicate that after the confrontation, Kern got the gun back and took it apart, then scrubbed it with bleach/alcohol to remove fingerprints.
Weakland’s charges, which include attempted murder, are still pending in county court.
Kern’s pleas also addressed charges that Hollidaysburg Borough police filed earlier this year after investigating a fight between Kern and a corrections officer. The fight developed after Kern started questioning the officer about why inmates were being ordered to return to their cells.
Kern pleaded guilty to a second degree felony aggravated assault offense and to disorderly conduct.
To address Kern’s charges filed for his role in an effort to smuggle drugs and tobacco into the county prison, Sullivan authorized the immediate transfer of the charges from juvenile court to adult court.
That put Kern in a position to render guilty pleas to criminal conspiracy to provide contraband and a contraband offense, in addition to possession with intent to deliver and criminal use of a communications device,
Kern was 17 years old when he drove up to a vacant house near the county prison and dropped off a black plastic bag where an inmate was supposed to find it. Instead, a neighbor who saw Kern drop off the bag contacted police who launched an investigation.
During a jury trial in April, Kern testified on behalf of his mother, Crystal Rose Conner, and admitted to leaving the bag with drugs and tobacco at the vacant house. Kern told the jury that he and inmate Robert Conner Jr. made the arrangements. The jury concluded that Crystal Rose Conner was also involved and convicted her of criminal conspiracy to provide contraband and related offenses.
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 814-946-7456.