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Defendant withdraws no contest plea in shooting

September 25, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A woman charged in the 2000 slaying of a veterans post commander has fired her attorney and wants to withdraw a no contest plea to a lesser charge to which she agreed last month.

Sally A. Sellers, of St. Thomas, Pa., was supposed to be sentenced today in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, but on Sept. 10 fired attorney Mike Toms and on Monday entered a motion before Judge Carol Van Horn to withdraw her plea.

On Aug. 22, she entered the no contest plea to the charge of criminal conspiracy to commit third-degree murder, according to court records.

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Under a no contest plea, a defendant is not admitting guilt, but plans to offer no defense.

As part of the agreement, Sellers, 32, would serve seven to 25 years in state prison and would not be tried on the other charges she faced, including criminal homicide, criminal conspiracy to commit homicide, criminal conspiracy to commit robbery, robbery and two counts of criminal attempt homicide, court records show.

On Monday Van Horn issued separate orders allowing Toms to officially withdraw as Sellers' counsel and appointing H. Anthony Adams as her new attorney.

Toms said Sellers fired him on Sept. 10 when he went to see her at the Franklin County Prison.

In an affidavit signed by Sellers, she said on Aug. 22 she was coerced by Toms and Assistant District Attorney T.R. Williams "under threat and duress" into entering the plea.

Van Horn postponed the sentencing and will consider Sellers' request to withdraw her plea but did not indicate when she would rule.

Prior to the plea agreement, Sellers was scheduled to go to trial this week in the June 11, 2000, shootings at the Vietnam Veterans Post Club in Chambersburg.

Police have said that Sellers and codefendant Jonna M. Johnson were attempting to rob the club and fatally shot Robert Tucker and wounded employees Kimberly Bigger and William Groff.

Johnson was convicted of first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of criminal attempt homicide in November. She is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Johnson confessed to the shootings but later tried to convince police that Sellers entered the club after it closed and shot Groff and Bigler while standing behind her.

Both women were members of the post and involved in a romantic relationship. They were planning to rob the post after closing and buy a mobile home together, according to court records.

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