A State College man waging a write-in campaign for a district judge seat was convicted of criminal trespassing Wednesday after a one-day jury trial.
Hobson McKown, 28, was charged with defiant criminal trespassing and disorderly conduct, both misdemeanor counts, in August 2016. The charges followed an incident at the Centre County Courthouse in which sheriffs claimed he had been told not to return to the courthouse after being told to leave.
McKown was convicted on a felony weapons charge in 2008 after bringing a loaded gun into a district judge’s office. He was sentenced to two years probation.
According to the criminal complaint, McKown had come to the county sheriff’s office and live-streamed the front desk personnel with a recording device before being asked to leave. He then reportedly tried to enter the courthouse twice without being screened, during which time he was told not to come back onto county property.
He was later arrested after again coming up to the courthouse, the complaint said.
Sheriffs on duty that day testified to their encounters with McKown, saying he had tried to enter through the front doors before heading to the rear door. When he was turned away at the rear door, he again tried to enter through the front.
The incident occurred during a Jerry Sandusky PCRA hearing, as one sheriff testified that the commotion at the front doors was so loud it caused the judge to pause the proceedings.
Judge Pamela Ruest, who presided over the hearings, needed to question jurors following the afternoon break on their impartiality on the trial. During lunch, it had become known that an associate of McKown’s was connected to the distribution of a “jury handbook” on the front lawn of the courthouse.
The booklet reminded jurors that they can “nullify bad law in any case by ‘hanging the jury,’ ” and told jurors they are “falsely instructed by the judge when it is told it must accept the law that which is given to them by the court.”
The booklet had been handed out to jury members, creating speculation that McKown was trying to influence the jury. All but two of the jurors admitted to taking one of the booklets, but all said their impartiality on the case had not been compromised.
A Bedford County deputy testified that in February 2014, McKown had brought a concealed pellet gun into the county courthouse. He described McKown as “defensive” when approaching fellow deputies, believing he wanted to challenge the security system of the courthouse to test their response.
During testimony, McKown claimed he had never been told he was not to return to the courthouse or county property. On accusations he had tried to “breeze through” the security system, he said he had emptied his pockets beforehand so he could pass through the metal detector without needing to speak to the deputies, who had apparently become agitated with him.
When he was stopped after passing through, he said he refused to be searched by wand, questioning the sheriff’s authority to search him a second time when no alarm had gone off on the metal detector. He was then made to leave the courthouse.
After about an hour and 40 minutes of deliberation, jurors returned a verdict of guilty on the count of criminal trespassing and not guilty on the charge of disorderly conduct. A motion to have McKown’s bail revoked was denied by Ruest.
Sentencing is scheduled for April 10.