Operation Drive Thru Trial Hits Speed Bump

CLEARFIELD – A drug trial involving five men from “Operation Drive Thru” hit a speed bump on Monday after the trial judge granted a motion filed by five defense attorneys in the case which eliminated the commonwealth’s scheduled witnesses from testifying.

Defense attorneys argued that the Dave Gorman, senior deputy attorney general, had agreed to provide documents containing testimony from witnesses who testified in two Grand Jury proceedings and would testify in the eight-day trial by July 6 and failed to do so.

Clearfield County President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman issued an order that stated, “(the) Commonwealth shall provide copies of tran scri pts of Grand Jury testimony for any witness who will testify at time of trial to Defense counsel by no later than 7-6-09. Any failure to provide Grand Jury testimony in conformance with this deadline shall result in the individual being precluded from testifying at time of trial.

Defense attorneys argued that they did not receive the testimony tran scri pts until July 10.

The defense attorneys for Michael Styers, Charles Gearhart, Michael Gearhart, Kenneth Smeal and Majaraji Hemingway argued that there was not enough time to properly defend their clients or for their clients to help in their own defense with only three days to prepare.

“We’re just asking you to enforce the order,” said Ron Collins, Smeal’s defense attorney.

Gorman indicated that he believed the date the files were supposed to be delivered was July 9. Gorman said he also recognized the order that the court had issued. Gorman pointed out that in normal proceedings, the defense is not given the tran scri pts until after the witness has been questioned during direct examination.

Ammerman said that this has brought up problems in past Attorney General cases. Ammerman indicated that if that if they did the case that way, the defense attorneys would have to call for multiple recesses to go over those tran scri pts. He said that was why they agreed on the July 6 date and the order.

Gorman stated that defense counsel had what they needed, and that they had more time with the documents than they would have otherwise.

“You agreed to the order,” Ammerman asked Gorman.

“Yes your honor,” replied Gorman.

Ammerman also pointed that while Gorman indicated the believed the date to be July 9, the defense attorney did not get the paperwork until July 10.

After hearing over an hour of arguments, Clearfield County President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman granted the motion that precluded 34 commonwealth witnesses from testifying. After Ammerman’s order to preclude the 34 witnesses he gave Gorman time to consider the commonwealth’s case. When court reconvened Gorman stated that the motion and judge’s decision essentially handicapped their case. Gorman said that the AG’s office would appeal Ammerman’s decision.

Ammerman also issued granted a motion made on Smeal’s behalf to dismiss two felony counts he was facing. Ammerman noted that the commonwealth failed to amend the charges.

The jury was then called in and dismissed.

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