Did a former prosecutor overcharge a Bellefonte man?
The new Centre County District Attorney’s office says yes.
In December, former DA Stacy Parks Miller charged Trevor Stem, 30, with a third-degree felony — discharging a firearm into an occupied structure. Those charges were dismissed Tuesday.
“I can’t meet my burden of proof on these charges,” Centre County Deputy DA Sean McGraw told Judge Jonathan Grine.
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According to McGraw, state police said they were directed to file the charges by Parks Miller to “get (him) off the street.”
McGraw told the judge the original charges were written to address drive-by shooting “and this doesn’t meet that.”
According to court documents, everything started when several gunshots were reported to have come from inside a Philipsburg residence on Nov. 23. State police at Philipsburg arrived at the residence and made contact with Stem, 30, at the back door.
Police secured a loaded pistol and a magazine with live rounds, as well as a live round from the chamber of the weapon, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
Stem told police at the time that he was teaching Barbara Dubbs, 36, of Philipsburg, about the Taurus 9mm handgun, but said she pointed the muzzle toward the ceiling and fired an accidental shot into the ceiling of the Philipsburg residence.
Stem then took the firearm from Dubbs and demonstrated how to properly shoot the rest of the rounds in the magazine of the firearm into the ceiling of the residence, according to the affidavit. Stem said he felt that discharging the weapon inside the residence was done in a safe manner and he did not put anyone in danger.
Stem was sentenced to serve 90 days probation for a summary count of criminal mischief instead of the felony. Stem’s sentence was done to run concurrently with a 12-month probation sentence he is serving after entering a guilty plea to retail theft charges in September.
Dubbs was also charged with felony discharge of a firearm into an occupied structure, misdemeanor reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct-unreasonable noise. She waived an appearance in court on the case in January and is slated to appear before Grine Feb. 21.
The issue was the most recent incident involving the former DA, who left office in December, and the new administration. Bernie Cantorna defeated Parks Miller in the primary and cemented his win in November. McGraw, a former Centre County ADA who went into private practice, returned to work for Cantorna.
Parks Miller, who maintained she was a law-and-order DA, sued a long list of people including Cantorna and McGraw, for defamation and other claims that were dismissed by a federal judge as “inartful and vitriolic.”
After sentencing, Stem was concerned about the plea impacting his ability to possess a firearm in the future.
“I’m very serious about my Second Amendment rights,” Stem said.