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Pa. man convicted of assault fails to show for sentencing

August 04, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A Pakistani national was sentenced Wednesday in Franklin County Court to three to 10 years in state prison for molesting a teenage girl, but authorities will have to find him before he can start serving the sentence.

"I'd like to call Shafqat Ahmad ... who apparently will not be joining us again today," Assistant District Attorney Bret Palmer said as the sentencing hearing began.

Ahmad, 41, formerly of 6263 Mountain View Drive, Chambersburg, was convicted in a September jury trial of aggravated indecent assault and indecent assault, although he was acquitted of sexual assault and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse charges.

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"I believe Mr. Ahmad has willfully failed to appear ... We would request sentencing in absentia," Palmer said.

Defense attorney Michael Whare objected, saying the law requires a defendant be present at all court proceedings.

Judge John R. Walker went ahead with the sentencing, saying the court "shouldn't have to form a posse" before a sentence is passed.

Palmer told the court that Ahmad failed to show up for pre-sentence interviews after his conviction, or for his sexual offender assessment. Wednesday was also not the first time he had failed to show for sentencing.

Another attorney for Ahmad requested and was granted a continuance when he failed to appear June 15, according to court records. At that time, Palmer told the court neighbors had seen Ahmad and his family moving out of their home shortly after the trial ended.

"I can't give you any updated information on his status or what he's up to," Whare told Walker.

Ahmad was employed at an Exxon station on Black Gap Road when the incident with the 17-year-old girl occurred 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.

"Mr. Ahmad, if you were here, I'd advise you have 10 days to appeal the sentence of this court," Walker said as he began explaining Ahmad's post-sentence rights.

"You understand those rights, Mr. Ahmad?" Walker continued. Receiving no reply, Walker said, "Fine."

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