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Kittanning man pleads guilty to simple assault

A Kittanning man who said he fired a gun to help a victim who was being beaten pleaded guilty yesterday to simple assault and reckless endangerment.

Michael Dale Atherton, 31, said during court proceedings Friday that he was asked to a remote area in Wayne Township on Sept. 17 "to watch my cousin's back."

Assistant District Attorney Cindy Calarie said Atherton fired a couple of shots in the air to frighten the victim into giving up drugs he allegedly possessed. Two other co-defendants allegedly took the victim to Oscar at about 9 p.m. and began beating him after an alleged drug deal went awry. According to court documents, the suspects left the victim at the scene naked and discarded his clothing a short distance away.

Atherton told Judge James Panchik that he was not trying to hurt the victim when he fired his gun.

"It was an attempt to basically just settle everything down so I didn't see this gentleman get beaten to death," the defendant said. "The reason I drew and fired my weapon, in all honesty, was to stop the beating."

Atherton agreed that the plea agreement was in his best interest, despite his assertions of innocence.

"I was wrong for being there, I was wrong for being involved," he said.

The district attorney is recommending probation in the case. Atherton is scheduled for sentencing Aug. 3.

Christopher Lee Atherton, 28, of Boggs Township, pleaded guilty to simple assault last month. Chad Hunter Sherry, 30, of Rural Valley, is scheduled for trial in July.

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