The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

September 5, 2013

Man faces 12-24 years for box-cutter attack

Kathy Mellott

EBENSBURG — A Johnstown man who was unsuccessful in his bid to defend himself during a recent jury trial was sentenced Wednesday to serve 12 to 24 years in state prison.

Cambria County Judge Linda Fleming told defendant Erik Lybarger that his sentence was based on a myriad of reasons including his mental health history and nine previous felonies.

“One of the most important things I have to consider is the risk to society based on your criminal history and your refusal of mental health treatments,” Fleming said.

Lybarger, 36, who was said to be homeless at the time of his 2012 arrest, was convicted in June of attacking Johnstown resident William McGinnis with a box cutter.

The wound across McGinnis’ chest was 10 inches long and so deep and wide it could have damaged vital organs. It required significant surgery to close, a Memorial Medical Center doctor testified at the trial.

Lybarger was convicted of aggravated assault and reckless endangerment following a trial highlighted by Fleming’s ordering Lybarger from the courtroom after he refused to follow her instructions.

Johnstown attorney Michael Filia was named to defend Lybarger.

Anytime Filia addressed the court on Wednesday, Lybarger stated that he had not consented to Filia representing him.

Cambria County Chief Deputy District Attorney Scott Lilly asked for a sentence of 91/2 to 19 years in prison.

“Considering his age, he has one of the largest records I’ve seen,” Lilly told the court. “I believe he cannot comport his actions to society’s rules.”

When Fleming attempted to explain the state sentencing guidelines to Lybarger, he interrupted, saying: “I’m not really all that interested.”

When Fleming explained his appeal rights, Lybarger responded by saying his rights are being denied in jail because he cannot get pencils, paper and other things needed to file appeals.

Fleming said many of Lybarger’s problems may have resulted from his refusal of psychotic medication.

The March 6, 2012, attack on McGinnis took place on Franklin Street in Johnstown. It followed an encounter between the two earlier in the day near Point Stadium.

Kathy Mellott covers the Cambria County Courthouse for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at