Md. man found not guilty in tavern shooting death

April 09, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

A Washington County Circuit judge on Tuesday found an Allegany County, Md., man not guilty of reckless endangerment in the shooting death of another man in a Hancock bar on Dec. 26, 2001.

Shawn E. Golden's family members hugged each other after he was acquitted, while members of victim William A. Weicht's family quietly left the courtroom. Both families declined to comment.

Weicht, 33, of Warfordsburg, Pa., was shot once in the chest at the Log Cabin Inn. He died at Washington County Hospital.


Golden, 22, of 31912 Mud Lick Road in Little Orleans, Md., was indicted Nov. 8 on the single charge in connection with Weicht's death. He was tried March 27 before Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley. Golden chose not to have a jury present.

Reading prepared remarks Tuesday, Beachley said the fact that Golden fired the shot that killed Weicht was not disputed. Beachley said that although he did not believe Golden's testimony about the events that led to Weicht's death, there was not enough evidence to convict Golden.

Beachley cited witness testimony that Golden had as many as 18 beers before he and his friend, Gerrit Myers, completed a plumbing job and headed into Hancock.

Beachley said Golden and Myers stopped briefly at the Hardee's restaurant there, where Golden got into a fight with another man.

When Golden and Myers reached the Log Cabin Inn, Golden got into a brief argument with Weicht, a bartender who thought Golden had fought with his cousin, Beachley said.

But the argument was diffused and "things appeared calm," Beachley said.

The few people who had been at the bar soon left, leaving only Golden, Myers, Weicht, and another bartender, James Keefer, Beachley said.

At one point, Weicht retrieved a .22-caliber pistol from a back room, and at another point, he told Keefer he wanted to scare Golden, Beachley said.

Myers and Keefer did not see the shooting, Beachley said. At around 11 p.m., Myers was in the bathroom and Keefer had just grabbed his jacket to leave.

Keefer testified that Golden and Weicht were whispering to each other as he was heading toward the door. He took two steps and heard the gunshot, Beachley said.

Keefer testified he turned around and saw Weicht falling toward him, gripping his chest, and Golden was holding the pistol, Beachley said.

Using Keefer's testimony, Beachley first disposed of Golden's testimony. While Golden said Weicht tried to force Golden to take the gun, Keefer would have been close enough to hear Weicht asking Golden to take his gun, Beachley said.

Keefer "did not see or hear any discussion between Weicht and the defendant" while he was leaving, Beachley said.

Beachley said it made sense that Golden's conflicting statements to police helped show he was too drunk to remember what happened.

"Frankly, the court believes that the defendant was so intoxicated, that the final events happened so quickly, that the defendant does not know precisely what happened," Beachley said.

Without a believable account from Golden, the only living witness to the actual shooting, Beachley said he had to speculate on what could have happened.

Beachley said he didn't believe Golden would have been able to take the gun away from Weicht and shoot him. It was possible Golden had struggled with Weicht and had enough time to consider not shooting Weicht, but it was also possible the shooting was an accident, Beachley said.

"In short, the court does not know what occurred," Beachley said.

"The court is not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had sufficient time to subjectively be aware of the risk and then subjectively, consciously, disregard that risk," Beachley said.

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