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Westmoreland jurors convict Uniontown man in case involving kidnapping, high-speed car chase

Rich Cholodofsky
| Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, 2:57 p.m.
Brian Allen Craggette
Westmoreland County Prison
Brian Allen Craggette

Jurors on Thursday found a Uniontown man guilty of kidnapping and five other counts for taking captive a police informant and leading police on a high-speed car chase through Greensburg and Westmoreland County.

Police said Brian Allen Craggette, 38, forced a woman into his car on Sept. 29, 2016, during a controlled drug sting set up by investigators.

He led them on a five-mile chase through the city and down Route 119 into Crabtree at speeds that topped 108 mph.

The Westmoreland County jury deliberated nearly three hours before it returned guilty verdicts for kidnapping, unlawful restraint, reckless endangerment, fleeing from police officers and drug delivery.

Assistant District Attorney Jim Lazar said Craggette faces up to more than 40 years in prison when he is sentenced in about three months by Common Pleas Court Judge Chris Scherer. Lazar said he will ask the judge to impose a sentence that calls for Craggette to receive at least seven years behind bars.

Craggette rejected a plea offer before trial that called for him to serve five to 10 years in prison.

During closing arguments Thursday morning, defense attorney Brian Aston conceded that Craggette should be found guilty of lesser charges of drug possession, reckless endangerment and fleeing from police. But the defense, which presented no evidence or witnesses during the three-day trial, argued that Craggette should be acquitted of kidnapping and a charge of drug delivery.

Aston said the police informant, a woman who had been arrested earlier that day in a prostitution sting, set up Craggette for the drug buy and voluntarily got into his car against the advice of police.

“Why would you trust her with my client's life?” Aston asked.

The prosecution said the informant was never charged but still agreed to help police after her arrest.

She identified Craggette as a contact who had sold her crack cocaine and set up a meeting with him in Greensburg as police watched.

The planned drug deal was botched when the woman walked away from a pre-arranged location for the transaction and met with Craggette in his car several blocks away.

She testified she was told to get in the vehicle and pulled into the passenger's seat by Craggette, who then sped off when he suspected police were nearby.

She told jurors she opened the door but couldn't get out because the car was moving too fast. She said Craggette threw bags of drugs out a window during the police pursuit and swallowed others.

Police found one bag of cocaine and another of marijuana on the roadside after the chase.

Craggette eventually crashed into an embankment near a Crabtree church and was taken into custody.

Assistant District Attorney Jim Lazar told jurors there was enough evidence to support all charges against Craggette.

He argued that the informant, despite her arrest, was a credible witness.

“She didn't sign up to be taken on a five-mile, high-speed car chase,” Lazar said. “What happened to her that day was worse than any punishment for prostitution. I think she's earned not getting charged.”

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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