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Testimony suppression requested

September 09, 1998|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The attorney for a Chambersburg man acquitted last month of attempted homicide filed a motion on Tuesday in Franklin County Court to suppress testimony of witnesses in a possible retrial on two other charges.

The jury in the Aug. 13-14 trial of Donald T. Houser, 25, was deadlocked on charges of criminal conspiracy to commit homicide and criminal solicitation to commit homicide, according to attorney Stephen D. Kulla.

Kulla said Tuesday his motion is based on a federal case in which a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that "giving something of value to someone in exchange for testimony is illegal."

"We believe they made plea offers to witnesses, either affirmatively or negatively," Kulla said. He said witnesses were offered either more lenient deals if they testified, or harsher treatment if they refused to do so.

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"That was our big argument in the trial, that you couldn't believe any of the witnesses because the prosecution had their hooks in them," Kulla said.

Houser was charged in connection with a shooting on July 20, 1997, at the intersection of Hollywell Avenue and West South Street in which two men were injured. According to borough police records, shots were fired from a passing vehicle into a crowd of about 20 people.

Damon L. Bryant, 21, of Chambersburg, suffered a shattered left femur, according to police. Charles D. Green Jr., 22, of Chambersburg, was hit in the chest and left wrist.

"He's trying to piggyback this onto a federal statute," Franklin County Assistant District Attorney T.R. Williams said of Kulla's motion. He said the federal case Kulla cited hasn't been decided.

Williams also said plea negotiations and bargains are common in criminal cases and defense attorneys can challenge the truthfulness of any witness at a trial.

The motion asks the court to suppress the testimony of five men who testified at Houser's first trial. Kulla said a hearing on the motion is scheduled for Sept. 24.

Kulla said the retrial on the charges is scheduled for the November trial term. He said unrelated charges of possession of cocaine with intent to deliver, possession of cocaine and disorderly conduct were also continued to November.

According to court records, three of the five named in the motion also were charged in the drive-by shooting. One, William C. Houser, 18, of Chambersburg, pleaded no contest to aggravated assault and criminal attempt to commit homicide.

Williams said a plea bargain was offered to another witness, but "the others haven't been offered anything."

While Bryant and Green recovered from their wounds, Green was shot and killed outside his West Catherine Street home in Chambersburg on Oct. 6, 1997.

The man charged in that case, Bryan K. Jefferson, 38, of Harrisburg, Pa., was scheduled to be in court on Tuesday. According to the District Attorney's Office, Jefferson was granted a continuance in his case until the November trial term.

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