CLEARFIELD – A jury deliberated for about an hour Friday before finding Denny S. Bailey, 36, of Clearfield guilty of simple assault, M2, for brandishing a small, wooden club and knife during an altercation in September of last year.
The jury also found Bailey not guilty of terroristic threats, M1, and harassment, M3. Following the verdict, Clearfield County President Judge Fredric Ammerman ordered a pre-sentencing investigation; Bailey will appear for sentencing within 60 days.
Assistant District Attorney Warren B. Mikesell II presented the case on behalf of the commonwealth. Bailey was represented by defense attorney Ron Collins of Clearfield.
A tractor-trailer driver testified first about the incident for the commonwealth. On Sept. 22 he was on his way to make a delivery at the Mountain Laurel Nursing Home & Rehabilitation Center at around 12 p.m.
While en route on Leonard Street, he had to wait on a pick-up truck, which was leaving the center and had come to a stop. It was keeping him from negotiating the turn, as he would have to swing wide, he said.
Because the truck’s female driver didn’t proceed on from the stop sign, he began motioning and yelling for her to “come on.” When the truck approached his tractor-trailer, he could hear the passenger, who he identified as Bailey, yelling at him.
When the truck pulled up alongside his cab window, he said he got an “earful” from Bailey, who wanted to know why he had used profanity toward his girlfriend who was operating the truck. He tried to explain that he was only saying “come on.”
At this point, they exchanged words before Bailey’s girlfriend pulled forward and stopped again at the rear of his trailer. He said he still didn’t attempt to negotiate the turn, as felt he’d clip the rear of the truck.
Bailey, he said, proceeded to exit the passenger’s side of the truck. He had his walking cane in one hand and a small, wooden club in his other hand. He then got out of his tractor-trailer.
According to his testimony, he was “dumbfounded” by this happening to him in Clearfield, a small, rural town in Pennsylvania. He testified that he makes regular deliveries to larger cities in bad neighborhoods in New York and New Jersey but has never had any problems.
He said Bailey was yelling at him while holding the club, which he reached for and grabbed from Bailey. He told jurors he was trying to avoid being hit with it and relieved to get it so quickly. He threw the club into a field adjacent to them.
However, Bailey then pulled out a knife and stated, “Ha-ha, I’ll cut you.” “I immediately backed up,” the tractor-trailer driver testified.
When asked, he confirmed having access to his own club and other tools in his tractor-trailer, which he could have used for purposes of protection. He said that he chose not to prevent the situation from escalating further.
He said another vehicle approached the scene on Leonard Street. When the operator exited he ordered them both to return to their vehicles until police arrived at the scene to sort things out.
Jeremy Ruffner, Clearfield County 911 coordinator, testified next. On the date in question, he was leaving for a dental appointment when he encountered the vehicles blocking Leonard Street.
Ruffner corroborated the tractor-trailer driver’s testimony, saying he observed Bailey walking along the trailer with the club. At this point, he said the driver was still in his tractor-trailer but did exit and stand by his cab door.
Ruffner said he then observed Bailey raise the club as if he was about to strike the tractor-trailer driver. However, the driver was able to grab the club and throw it into the adjacent field. After that, Ruffner said Bailey pulled out a knife and the driver stepped back.
Before approaching the men, Ruffner said he had already called the dispatch center to have police respond and break up the altercation. He ordered both men to return to their vehicles until police arrival, and both complied.
Officer Zachary Cowan of the Lawrence Township police said he was dispatched to a fight in progress shortly after 12 p.m. Sept. 22 on Leonard Street near the Mountain Laurel Nursing Home & Rehabilitation Center.
He made contact at the scene with the tractor-trailer driver and then Ruffner. Another township officer made contact with Bailey, who was inside the pick-up truck, he said.
When he made contact with the tractor-trailer driver, he was informed of the wooden club, which had been grabbed away from Bailey and thrown into the field.
He retrieved the club and proceeded to make contact with Bailey. Upon making contact with him, Cowan said Bailey advised he had a knife on him. Cowan asked Bailey to step out of the truck, and he seized the knife from him.
When he interviewed Bailey about the incident, Cowan said he claimed the tractor-trailer driver had made rude statements about his girlfriend. He also claimed that the tractor-trailer driver had initiated the entire confrontation.
Bailey’s girlfriend testified first for the defense. On the date in question, she said she and Bailey were leaving Mountain Laurel, and she was unable to see around the tractor-trailer, which was waiting to turn to go into the center.
She had pulled up to try to see and the tractor-trailer’s driver was yelling obscenities at her and calling her names. She felt demeaned, intimidated and scared by the tone of his voice and his actions.
According to her, the tractor-trailer driver got out, walked along the trailer and was coming toward them. Bailey, she said, got out and had the wooden club, and they both were angry and yelling at each other.
She said Bailey wasn’t swinging the club and doesn’t even move fast because he uses a walking cane due to his disability. She observed the tractor-trailer driver grab the club and hold it up as if to hit Bailey, but she said he threw it over his head into the field.
Under cross-examination, she denied that Bailey and the tractor-trailer driver had exchanged any words at the cab window. She claimed she stopped much further ahead only because there was a vehicle stopped ahead of her and more vehicles up ahead of it.
Mikesell then asked her after traffic cleared up ahead what stopped her from just going. She said “nothing.”
When asked why Bailey got out of the truck, she answered to protect her. “He has a cane and he’s disabled, wouldn’t the best protection be to stay in the vehicle?” Mikesell asked.
She said that was why Bailey took the club, but she didn’t know he had a knife with him.
Bailey also took the stand in his own defense, saying he’d become offended by the tractor-trailer driver yelling at and calling his girlfriend names.
He described the tractor-trailer driver as being angry and hostile toward her when she was stopped coming out of the center, and he [Bailey] stuck his middle finger up at him when they drove by.
When they reached the rear of the tractor-trailer, he said they were stopped due to traffic ahead. He noticed the driver exiting the tractor-trailer in the driver’s side mirror of the truck. He gave the tractor-trailer driver the middle finger again.
Initially, Bailey said that he didn’t think there was going to be any problems until the driver continued walking along the trailer toward their truck.
He noticed the tractor-trailer driver was bigger, but he still got out despite his disability. He testified that he didn’t want the tractor-trailer driver to get to and harm his girlfriend.
Bailey took the wooden club from the truck for protection but said he didn’t swing it during the incident. However, he said the tractor-trailer driver “snatched it” quickly and he thought to himself “now what” and feared getting beat with it.
When the tractor-trailer driver raised the club in the air, Bailey said he pulled out the little knife that was on his belt loop. He denied that he threatened to cut or harm the driver but instead told him to just get back into his tractor-trailer.
When Ruffner appeared out of nowhere, Bailey said he was relieved and like everything was going to be OK.
He said in his mind, he’d done what any man would have for their wife/girlfriend. Under cross-examination, he told Mikesell he felt it was the best decision because if he created a scene, then someone would probably call the cops.
When Mikesell pointed out that he didn’t even know if the tractor-trailer driver was armed with a weapon, Bailey said, “Yea, I know. I could’ve had my brains blown out of my head, but at least my girlfriend would have walked away.”
In his closing, Collins argued that the tractor-trailer driver wanted everyone to believe he was “perfectly innocent.” He called attention to the fact that he was waving his arms and talking loudly and in an aggressive tone that intimidated Bailey’s girlfriend.
He wanted everyone to believe that he didn’t curse or call anyone names. “But if that were true, there wouldn’t have been an encounter at all,” he said. He believed the tractor-trailer driver was frustrated with the situation and demeaned Bailey’s girlfriend.
Collins also called attention to the fact that Bailey didn’t want a physical altercation because he was small in size in comparison to the tractor-trailer driver and plus, he had his disability. “But he was offended about his lady friend being insulted, demeaned,” he said, which made him feel the need to confront the tractor-trailer driver about it.
Collins argued that when Bailey took the club with him, the tractor-trailer driver was “amused” by it and wasn’t terrorized to the point he grabbed his own weapon. He noted that he didn’t say anything about Bailey swinging it around in a threatening manner during his testimony.
“He had no problem getting it away from Denny,” Collins argued, “and when he did, he didn’t keep it and threw it away.” He questioned why the tractor-trailer driver wouldn’t keep the club, if Bailey had pulled out a knife.
So far as Bailey’s statement that he’d cut the tractor-trailer driver with his knife, he described it as being made in the spur or heat of the moment. He said it wasn’t well-thought out, and there wasn’t any intent to act on it.
“If you had to bet on two people in a fight who would you put your money on,” Collins asked the jury.
Mikesell countered, saying he agreed the jury had heard different versions of the incident. However, he said it boiled down to which set of facts they believed as the truest.
He reminded jurors that Bailey took the wooden club because he wanted the tractor-trailer driver to know he meant business. He said when that was taken away from him his immediate reaction was to pull out the knife and to threaten to “cut” him.
He pointed jurors to testimony from Ruffner, who corroborated the tractor-trailer driver’s story. “Ruffner doesn’t have a dog in this race,” he said. “He just so happened to be on his way to a dentist appointment … You heard a truer set of facts from him.”
If Bailey wanted to protect his girlfriend, he should have done it according to the law. “What he did was terroristic threats and simple assault,” Mikesell argued. “Why not gun it, why not get out of there? If they had, we wouldn’t be here today, but he had to prove something instead.”