The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

June 17, 2013

Inmate’s hearing delayed

Prisoner accused of bashing attorney now apparently lacks one

Kathy Mellott
kmellott@tribdem.com

HOLLIDAYSBURG — The first court appearance by a death-row inmate who police and many witnesses say slammed a Cambria County attorney in the face more than a month ago is again delayed.

A preliminary hearing for Andre Staton, scheduled for today in front of Hollidaysburg District Judge Paula Aigner, was continued at the last minute Monday, apparently because he does not have an attorney to represent him.

A new hearing date has not been set, according to court personnel.

Staton, 50, who had been housed at SCI-Greene, is facing a long list of charges including two that, if upheld, could bring a life sentence in addition to the sentence he received in 2004 for the murder of an Altoona woman.

A Baltimore native, Staton is charged with striking Tim Burns of Ebensburg while the two were in the Blair County courtroom of Judge Elizabeth Doyle.

Staton has been charged with assault by a prisoner and assault by a life prisoner, which carry life sentences. He also is charged with aggravated assault, aggravated assault to intentionally cause injury and simple assault.

Burns was serving as Staton’s court- appointed attorney in postsentencing motions.

They were in court May 13 when Staton, apparently was not pleased when Burns agreed with Doyle’s decision that Staton could not represent himself in further court appearances.

In full view of the judge, Blair County District Attorney Richard Consiglio, sheriff’s deputies and other court personnel, Staton lifted his handcuffed hands, and as if hitting a baseball, slammed Burns in the face.

The attorney fell backward on his chair and was momentarily knocked out.

He was treated at the hospital, where it was determined he sustained a concession and has since been unable to work.

Late last month, Burns suffered a heart attack from what he said was a pre-existing heart condition, but likely was worsened by the stress he has suffered since the courtroom incident.

In subsequent weeks, Doyle removed Burns as Staton’s attorney, telling Staton that his actions meant he relinquished his right to a court-appointed attorney.

Deputy District Attorney Jackie Bernard, who will prosecute Staton on the new charges, could not be reached for comment Monday and the Blair County public defender’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Those close to the case said the lack of a defense attorney is holding up the hearing.

Meanwhile, Burns said Monday he is still working on his recovery.

“I’m just hanging in there, I still have a lot of issues with the concussion,” he said.

“My heart, for the most part, is back to normal, but I’m still dealing with the concussion,” he said.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.