Hearing turns heated for stabbing suspect

lfalce@centredaily.comApril 16, 2014 

— A defense attorney attempted to remove his client’s case from Centre County jurisdiction on Wednesday after a courthouse argument.

Brandon Frick, 21, is charged with two counts of aggravated assault and one count each of simple assault, terroristic threats, possession of instrument of crime and reckless endangerment.

Police said Frick, Robert W. Donaldson, 22, and William D. Stranburg, 21, engaged in a fight with two other men , pushing one down a flight of stairs and stabbing the other in the back. The three faced preliminary hearings Wednesday morning.

Donaldson and Stranburg waived their hearings. But before Frick’s hearing, District Judge Tom Jordan sent District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller and District Judge Steve Lachman out of the courtroom to continue a heated debate.

Frick’s attorney, Philip Masorti, protested the conversation, openly telling the court the conversation involved his client and should not be happening without his presence.

When Frick’s hearing began, Masorti brought up the conversation, which he said involved Parks Miller protesting the $10,000 straight bail Lachman set for Frick, asking that both Parks Miller’s office and the county’s district court officials be disqualified from participating in the case.

“It creates an appearance of impropriety,” he said, calling the stigma “profound” and “beneath the dignity” of the court.

Parks Miller is not trying the case, which is being handled by Assistant District Attorney Nathan Boob. Boob said he knew nothing of the argument and was not in the courtroom when it occurred.

“I knew there was an argument. I sent it outside,” said Jordan, adding he did not believe his judgment on the case was compromised since he did not know what Parks Miller and Lachman were talking about until Masorti told him. Jordan denied the request.

During the hearing, victim Charles Adams told the court how he and a friend had come to State College for the Blue-White game last Saturday. The fight began at a friend’s apartment. When he and the friend became separated and he returned to the apartment to find her, the other occupants told him to leave. When he was still unable to contact her, he tried to go back to the apartment again. That is when he testified that the three men came to the door with knives.

“As soon as I knew they had knives, I tried to leave,” he said. They headed for the stairs, with the men pushing them, according to court reports. The other victim fell down to the landing. While Adams attempted to pick him up, he was stabbed in the back, the reports show.

He testified that doctors at Mount Nittany Medical Center and later at UPMC Altoona told him he was lucky. The knife hit an area “right below my rib cage, to the left of my spinal cord,” he said, missing his lungs and his kidney. He lost “a great deal of blood” and the wound took three staples to close.

State College Detective Chris Weaver testified to recovering the weapon from a box of Raisin Bran cereal, where the defendant told him he put it after the altercation.

Masorti attempted to have the terroristic threats charge dismissed, saying no threat was made.

“I think the intent was clear,” said Boob.

Frick was bound over on all charges.

The issue of bail came up again when Boob attempted to have Jordan increase the bond. Frick’s parents secured his release Tuesday.

Boob argued that the seriousness of the potential injury merited a higher bail, especially in light of his ability to post it. Masorti countered that bail is not meant to be punitive.

“He got bailed out. He’s able to do that,” said Masorti. Jordan agreed, keeping bail set at $10,000.

“Extremely low bail on a violent unprovoked stabbing case will always be something I speak out against, including to the judge who set it. Such an issue will never be a legitimate ground to recuse my office since that is one of our primary jobs — advocacy for public safety,” Parks Miller said.

Lori Falce can be reached at 235-3910. Follow her on Twitter @LoriFalce.

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