CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Claiming ineffective representation by his former attorney and that he made an involuntary plea stemming from harassment in jail, a former Fannettsburg, Pa., man asked a Franklin County (Pa.) Court of Common Pleas judge Monday to withdraw his no-contest plea in a murder case.
In 2009, Scott Nathan North, whose 31st birthday is Tuesday, pleaded no contest to third-degree murder in the August 2006 death of his former employer, Carl Ryder. He was sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison on that charge, and an additional two to seven years in prison on other charges, including abuse of a corpse and escape.
Pennsylvania State Police alleged that North left his Franklin County Jail work-release job, then killed Ryder and used Ryder’s driver’s license and credit cards. Ryder’s body was found Aug. 16, 2006, in Huntingdon County, Pa.
North spoke to Judge Douglas Herman in a videoconference hearing Monday in Franklin County Court.
North told the judge he was unhappy with the services of his previous court-appointed attorney, John A. Abom, and others who worked on the case.
“I felt it was an ineffective assistance of counsel right from the beginning. ... He was trying to get me to take a third-degree plea before he even talked to me,” North said.
North alleged that his pretrial jail conditions included confidential informants in his cells, suicide watches with heavy air conditioning, restricted housing, undelivered letters and beds with handcuffs. As his case moved through the court system, North said he experienced problems in the Franklin County Jail and the State Regional Correctional Facility in Greensburg, Pa.
“This type of situation continued on and on every time I went back and forth to court. ... It was all too much. That’s why I took the plea,” North said.
Assistant District Attorney Zach Mills objected to what he said was hearsay testimony and said he’ll address that issue in a brief prepared for the judge. Mills said the defendant previously said on paper and orally that he understood what a plea entails.
Herman asked North’s new, court-appointed defense attorney, Vincent Monfredo, and Mills to file briefs by Aug. 31 for his review.