The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


July 17, 2014

Teen could face prosecution as an adult in Oakhurst fatal shooting

JOHNSTOWN — Fidel Cosby is not yet old enough to drive.

He cannot vote - or even legally buy a pack of smokes.

But the Johnstown teen, among three accused of brutally gunning down a Regional Police Academy recruit Sunday, is old enough to stand trial as an adult.

If convicted of first degree murder, Cosby could spend the rest of his life behind bars, prosecutors say.

Cosby, just 15 years old according to court records, would become only the third young man in 15 years to face that possibility, if his charges are held for trial.

“With juveniles, there are exemptions that allow the District Attorney’s Office to directly file charges on the adult court level. And murder is one of them,” Cambria County District Attorney Kelly Callihan said.

She said other violent crimes committed with deadly weapons fall under the same category.

If a young suspect is held for trial, defense attorneys can petition for the matter to be transferred to juvenile court. Such a pre-trial request would be decided by the case’s presiding county judge after hearing arguments from both legal sides.

Cosby, Richard Cook, 21, and Jaquan Watson, 19, all face homicide and other counts in Tyrone William’s death early Sunday.

Police said Cosby, holding a laser sight-equipped handgun, and the other two men all fired at Williams after he approached the trio in the Oakhurst Homes while looking for a woman. 

Investigators have offered few other details about the matter but say the men began shooting after the discussion became confrontational and one of the alleged attackers took a swing at Williams.

The men allegedly fired at Williams as he tried to flee the scene, police said.

Williams was pronounced dead where he fell, after being struck multiple times by his attackers. A gunshot would to the chest took his life, Cambria Chief Deputy Coroner Jeff Lees has said.

Cosby turned himself in to police Tuesday. Since then, he’s been lodged in Cambria County Prison without the possibility of bail because of the homicide charge.

Until nearly a decade ago, children convicted of first degree murder also faced the possibility of a death sentence. But such punishment was rare because age was among a number of factors prosecutors had to consider before seeking the penalty.

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court banned capital punishment for juveniles.

The court made the decision in a 5-4 vote, calling the death penality “cruel and unusual” for those under 18 years old.

"From a moral standpoint, it would be misguided to equate the failings of a minor with those of an adult, for a greater possibility exists that a minor's character deficiencies will be reformed," Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in the opinion for the court, which made the decision after reviewing several adolescent brain studies.

A U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2012’s Miller vs. Alabama also stopped judges from imposing life sentences that automatically offer no possibility of parole on juveniles convicted by a jury of first degree murder, instead giving court judges the discretion to decide whether life sentences are suitable or if a set term, such as 40 years, fits the crime.

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What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

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