Man a no-show for Pa. court sentencing

June 16, 2005|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A native of Pakistan convicted last year of molesting a teenager failed to appear Wednesday in Franklin County Court for sentencing.

Shafqat Ahmad, 41, formerly of 6263 Mountain View Drive in Chambersburg, was scheduled to be sentenced on charges of aggravated indecent assault and indecent assault, which together carry a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison. He was convicted during a September jury trial in which he also was found not guilty of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and sexual assault.

"Is this guy even in the country?" Judge John R. Walker asked.

"The commonwealth is requesting a sentence in absentia due to his willful failure to appear," Assistant District Attorney Bret Palmer said. Ahmad has, she said, "apparently fled the state, if not the country."


Defense attorney Carl Rominger said he has no knowledge of where Ahmad could be and no means of contacting him. He asked Walker for a continuance, saying state law does not allow a person to be sentenced in absentia unless the state has made an effort to find them.

"He's your client. If you can't get a hold of him, how is the commonwealth supposed to get a hold of him?" Walker said. Nevertheless, Walker granted a continuance to Aug. 3.

"As sure as the sun comes up in the morning and sets in the evening, he's going to be sentenced that day," Walker said.

Palmer said Ahmad, who is not a U.S. citizen, failed to show up for pre-sentence interviews following his conviction and was seen moving out of his home within a few weeks of the trial. She said he was entered in the National Crime Information Computer system in January, but no information has turned up on him yet.

Ahmad was employed at an Exxon station on Black Gap Road when the incident with the 17-year-old girl occurred on April 9, 2003, according to court records. The girl told Pennsylvania State Police she went into the Exxon to buy cigarettes. Ahmad, whom she knew, offered to rub her back and pulled her into a back room, where he kissed and fondled her, police said.

The girl, who reported the incident to police the same day, said Ahmad stopped when he heard another customer enter the store, according to the affidavit of probable cause.

"Do I file post-sentencing motions in absentia?" Rominger asked Walker.

"Now or wherever you might be, you have the right to appeal," Walker said. "I think he'd be better off appealing to Allah."

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