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Judge withdraws from shooting case

August 17, 1998|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Franklin County President Judge John R. Walker removed himself from a case involving suspects in a drive-by shooting after remarks he made while sentencing two co-defendants last week.

Daniel Carl Putt, 16, of Mercersburg, Pa., and Timothy Keller Messner, 17, of Chambersburg, were in court Monday for a hearing to determine whether their cases would be transferred from adult to juvenile court.

Messner's attorney, Patrick J. Redding, asked Walker to remove himself for comments he made Wednesday while sentencing Bradley Alan Walls, 18, of Chambersburg, and Freddie Franklin Herr, 20, of St. Thomas, Pa., to two years probation for their roles in a March 11 shooting in Fannettsburg, Pa.

"I told them they were lucky because if they were the one who shot into the trailer, I'd have given them some time in prison," Walker said Monday in explaining why he agreed to have another judge hear the cases.

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Putt and Messner are charged as adults with aggravated and simple assault, reckless endangerment, carrying a firearm without a license, criminal conspiracy and other offenses in the shooting, according to state police.

Walker said he believed he could remain impartial, but "there would always be a lingering doubt ... about whether the court had already made up its mind."

No one was injured in the shooting. Police said the intended victims, Brad Crisswell Beatty and Toby Allen Clevenger, were not at home when six shots were fired at their trailer from one of two passing cars.

According to police, the handgun used belonged to Putt's father.

The hearings for Putt and Messner were rescheduled for Sept. 22, before Judge Richard J. Walsh. That day, Walsh will also hear a petition to transfer the case of another defendant, Javier Maldonado, 17, of Mercersburg, to juvenile court.

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