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Stein attorneys seek to block boy's testimony

| Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2001

Attorneys for a Blairsville man accused of stabbing his son in the head have asked an Indiana County judge to bar trial testimony, including testimony from the boy.

On Monday, attorneys for William Shane Stein, 44, of North Brady Street, filed a pretrial motion asking Judge Gregory Olson to prevent prosecutors from introducing various testimony, including testimony from Stein's 13-year-old son, Shayne Christian Stein.

State police have charged Stein with stabbing Shayne once in the head with a steak knife as he lay in bed early on the morning of July 26, 2000.

State police charged Stein in September 2000, shortly after police said Shayne awakened in Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh from a nearly two-month-long coma and identified his father as his attacker.

Stein, who has denied the charges, faces trial on charges of attempted criminal homicide, endangering the welfare of children and aggravated assault. No trial date has been scheduled.

In their motion Stein's attorneys, Tom Ceraso and Jim Ecker, referred to psychiatrist Christine A. Martone's opinion that the boy claimed no memory of the attack or events that led up to it. Martone evaluated Shayne for prosecutors in November 2000.

"Regardless of the competency issue raised ... it is the defendant's contention that if the commonwealth should call and be permitted to call the victim, the commonwealth would be presenting testimony which would be perjurious," Ceraso and Ecker wrote.

In their own pretrial motion filed Oct. 25, Ned Nakles, special assistant district attorney for the case, and Assistant District Attorney Michael Handler wrote that prosecutors believed Stein stabbed his son to keep Shayne from reporting Stein's inappropriate sexual conduct with Shayne.

Stein initially had been charged with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and indecent assault. The sex charges were dismissed at Stein's preliminary hearing in December after District Justice Michael Steffee ruled that prosecutors had not established a case for them.

Ceraso and Ecker want to bar testimony regarding DNA evidence collected on swabs when a rape kit was performed on Shayne after the attack.

The attorneys argue in their motion that initial testing at the state police crime lab and subsequent testing at the Bode Technology Group lab in Springfield, Va., did not support the prosecutors' supposition that the DNA evidence on the swabs was from Stein.

In their pretrial motion, Nakles and Handler argued that it had never been the prosecution's position that the DNA evidence was Stein's. They noted that the presence of the DNA evidence was powerful evidence that the attacker was a male.

Along with testimony on the DNA evidence, Ceraso and Ecker are seeking to bar testimony from state troopers about Stein downloading images of sex acts on his home computer prior to the time of the attack.

The attorneys argued that the testimony would not be considered relevant and therefore is inadmissible under the Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence.

Olson has not ruled yet on either the defense's or prosecution's pretrial motions.

On Friday, Olson issued orders amending his order denying Ceraso and Ecker's earlier petition to dismiss all charges against Stein, as well as his orders denying another psychiatric evaluation of Shayne and barring trial testimony by a psychologist who examined Shayne. The amendments allow Olson's rulings to be appealed.

Olson also issued an order Friday denying a defense motion to reconsider his denial of another psychiatric evaluation of Shayne.

Shayne remains in the custody of Indiana County Children and Youth Services and lives in a foster home.

Stein lives in the family duplex on North Brady Street and is not permitted contact with his son under conditions of his October 2000 release from jail.

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