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Sentence almost cut in half for woman who attempted to steal fetus

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Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
A Manor Township woman, who pled guilty in 2007 for attempting to steal a fetus from its mother's womb two years earlier, saw her minimum jail time for the crime reduced almost in half on Wednesday.Peggy Jo Conner, 45, was resentenced by Armstrong County President Judge Kenneth Valasek under a Post-Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petition granted late last year. Valasek decided in December to allow Conner to be resentenced based on an error found in the plea she signed in 2007.Under the new sentence, Conner was ordered to serve 78 to 156 months on a charge of criminal attempt to commit murder.The new sentence strikes from the charge the phrase “with the element of serious bodily injury.”She also was resentenced to two consecutive sentences of 36 to 108 months on charges of kidnapping and aggravated assault to an unborn child.An aggravated assault charge was merged with the criminal attempt to commit murder charge and did not carry an additional sentence.Conner was charged in October 2005 after she beat a pregnant woman, Valerie Oskin, and drove her from her Manor Township home to a wooded area in Wayne Township.A teenager on an ATV interrupted Conner's fetal-kidnapping attempt and went for help. Oskin and her baby both survived the attack.On Wednesday, Conner addressed the court and said she was sorry for her actions. Neither the victims nor the victims' family attended.“I made a huge mistake years ago,” said Conner. “I'm not the same person I was.”Public defender Charles Pascal filed the PCRA petition last year, arguing that Conner was represented ineffectively prior to her earlier sentencing in 2007.At that time, Conner was represented by attorney David DeFazio. Conner alleged that she did not have “proper counsel,” that DeFazio didn't explain her possible sentence and that she didn't understand the details of her plea hearing.According to court documents, Conner signed the plea, which contained an error in the wording. The document said that she was pleading guilty to the charge of criminal attempt to commit murder with serious bodily harm – which carries a maximum sentence of 40 years.However, according to the judge's opinion, the guideline form should have been for a charge of criminal attempt to commit murder without the element of serious bodily injury – which carries a 20-year maximum sentence.District Attorney Scott Andreassi said in court Wednesday that the Commonwealth rejects “any sentence other than that originally imposed.”However, Valasek said he was required to use a different guideline form from the one used in the original sentencing.Those new guidelines mean Conner will serve a minimum sentence of 12 years instead of 22.She was credited with 2,534 days served, must pay $3,556.51 in restitution and complete a drug and alcohol evaluation.Following Conner's resentencing, Andreassi said the Commonwealth is considering an appeal.“I'm not sure if the court made an error at that time (2007),” said Andreassi.According to Pascal, Valasek sentenced Conner at the high end of the standard range.A forensic psychiatrist's report found that Conner does not demonstrate risk factors for repeat offending, said Pascal.“It's clear she's been a model prisoner, taking responsibility for what she did,” he said.Conner has another 5½ years to serve before she is eligible to go before the parole board, said Pascal.Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or
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