The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

January 29, 2013

Getaway driver asks judge to merge terms

SOMERSET — Ronald Ziegel Jr. was behind the wheel of the getaway car used by two gunmen after a Bakersville-area drug dealer’s murder in 2009.

But the 27-year-old Friedens man also led police and prosecutors to the gunmen who took Bryant Adderley’s life.

Dressed in a prison jumpsuit, Ziegel stood in court Tuesday and told a Somerset County judge he wants a chance to re-enter the outside world and prove to the investigators who trusted his story – and to his parents – that he’s a changed man.

Ziegel’s statement convinced Judge D. Gregory Geary to consider his request to merge

a previous sentence on drug charges with the one for third-degree murder. That would essentially cut three years off Ziegel’s remaining prison time.

“I will take arguments from both (sides) under consideration ... and render a decision as promptly as possible,” Geary said.

Geary’s response came after county District Attorney Lisa Lazzari-Strasiser said she would not object if the judge decided to merge Ziegel’s prison terms.

Ziegel was sentenced in September to serve eight to 30 years for his guilty plea to third-degree murder. That sentence was consecutive to the nine-month to three-year sentence Ziegel was serving for  a drug case from 2008.

Adderley was shot 22 times in his Trent Road residence in August 2009. Investigators said fellow drug dealer Calvin Mallory Jr. had ordered a hit on him because Adderley moved into his territory. Mallory is serving a life sentence.

The gunmen – Toriano McCray, 38, and Ronald Washington II, 26, both of Michigan, also pleaded guilty to third-degree murder.

They were sentenced to serve 10 to 30 years and 7 1/2 to 30 years, respectively, in state prison.

Prosecutors agreed that Ziegel believed he was driving McCray and Washington to Adderley’s house to rob him of drug money, not kill him.

In court last year, a state trooper said Ziegel lead investigators to the murder weapons, told them a story that matched with facts and then testified in court against Mallory.

Ziegel was sentenced last summer.

Strasiser told the court that she thought the eight- to 30-year sentence was fair,

considering it falls on the low end of state guidelines, if Ziegel’s previous drug record is factored in.

But, given Ziegel’s participation in a case that led police to two triggermen and their drug kingpin, a slightly lower prison sentence with a longer probation term is also fair, she said told the judge.

“He’s already served three years,” Ziegel’s attorney, Jerome Kaharak, said. “We’re just asking the court to make that count on his current sentence.”

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