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Pa. man faces jail time

June 17, 1998|By MARLO BARNHART

A Pennsylvania man who forced a Conrail train to make an emergency stop in Hagerstown in January by pulling a pin that separates the cars and throwing debris on the tracks will be jailed for those offenses.

Mark Christian Harsh, 25, of 14683 Sherwood Drive, Greencastle, Pa., pleaded guilty Tuesday in Washington County Circuit Court to unlawful placement of an object on tracks to obstruct a railroad vehicle.

Judge W. Kennedy Boone III sentenced Harsh to three years in prison, but suspended all but 10 days in the Washington County Detention Center. The maximum could have been 10 years.

"If there had been any damage to the train or anyone injured, it would not be 10 days in jail," Boone said.

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In exchange for Harsh's guilty plea, one count of destruction of property was dropped.

The conductor of the train told Hagerstown City Police he saw a black vehicle with its lights out and a man throwing things in front of the engine, according to Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Joe Michael.

Then the conductor saw that man pull the pin between the cars on the train, Michael said.

When the cars separated, the train came to an automatic emergency stop at about 7:30 p.m. in the 400 block of North Burhans Boulevard.

"The conductor said he saw the same truck in Greencastle where a man was throwing things in front of the train," Michael said.

Crushed rocks and steel plates that weighed about 20 pounds each were found on the tracks, Michael said.

Harsh was found to be the driver of the truck. A juvenile passenger told police that Harsh did the damage in both Greencastle and Hagerstown.

Hagerstown Police Officer Joseph Stauffer said Harsh was in a vehicle in the area when he arrived. The juvenile was not charged, he said.

Michael told Boone that Harsh has a prior felony theft conviction.

"In 1994, he stole a piece of heavy equipment and drove it around for kicks," Michael said.

Harsh is in outpatient treatment for aggressive tendencies and explosive anger, according to defense attorney Steve Kessell.

"I don't know what your problem is but if you come back, you won't get one year or two years but all three years in prison," Boone said.

The fine was $500 and Harsh, who remained silent, was placed on supervised probation for two years.

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