West Newton judge delays hearing in wild chase, theft case
WEST NEWTON – A homeless man who tried to elude police June 4 by swimming across the Monongahela River showed up for a preliminary hearing Monday without an attorney.
Timothy James Hall, 30, received a plea bargain offer from prosecutors, but Magisterial District Judge Charles Christner ended up delaying the hearing.
Hall told Christner he completed an application for representation by a public defender.
“I don't know if I messed up filling out the papers, or what,” Hall told Christner. “I told them I can read and write, but I can't spell nothing.”
West Newton police Chief Charles Indof charged Hall with theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property, credit cards, flight to avoid apprehension, escape, criminal inducement and possession of a controlled substance.
In a related case – for an incident that occured during the chase – West Newton Officer Anthony Gillingham charged Hall with robbery, theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property and resisting arrest.
In that incident, Hall allegedly noticed a police cruiser approaching him and stole a bicycle from Alan Gough, 24, of West Newton, who had been riding on the Great Allegheny Passage trail.
A five-hour search for Hall began earlier that day at a Sunoco station along Route 136 in South Huntingdon Township, just outside West Newton.
Police attempted to arrest Hall on outstanding warrants, but he was able to escape into a nearby wooded area. A police helicopter and a K9 officer from Monessen were brought in to assist the search.
Trying to elude police, Hall swam across the river and climbed a tree, according to the affidavit of probable cause.
Police used a Taser to subdue Hall about a half-mile south of the trailhead in West Newton.
In district court Monday, Hall told Christner and Westmoreland County Assistant District Attorney Allen Powanda that he had a drug addiction problem and knew he did wrong.
Hall said he wanted to hear what kind of plea deal was going to be offered before deciding if he wanted an attorney.
“With the charges of Chief Indof, just with the escape, you're looking at 21-27 months (in jail),” Powanda told Hall.
“With your prior records, that's minimum time. On the robbery, you're looking at one to 1 1⁄2 years ... so you're looking at a minimum of three to 3 1⁄2 years.”
Powanda said that given Hall's record, he could be facing up to 10 years in state prison.
Christner told Hall he probably be better off requesting a continuance and seeking legal representation – especially because Hall might face additional charges by state police.
“I guess I'll have to wait for an attorney,” Hall said. “I guess I have to see if I have more charges.
“I know I screwed up. I have a little girl ... I just want to get this and my time done. ”
Hall's hearing has been rescheduled for 11:15 a.m. July 22 before Christner.
Jeremy Sellew is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-684-2667.