A pair of unrelated retail theft cases are bound for trial later this month in Huntingdon County Court.

The county called 125 residents for jury duty Monday morning and from that group seated two panels, one to hear the commonwealth’s case against Denelle Fortson, 45, of the Mount Union area, and the other to determine the state’s case against Brandy Price, 37, of the Huntingdon area. Huntingdon County District Attorney David Smith will prosecute in both cases.

Fortson, represented by court-appointed attorney Christopher Wencker, is facing one first-degree misdemeanor charge of retail for allegedly taking close to $500 in hair care products from Walmart March 31 of last year.

State police at Huntingdon say the store’s in-house asset protection staff caught the defendant on camera removing the items from their packaging before leaving the premises without paying. Police say the items Fortson allegedly took included hair straighteners, a heat tool, four curling irons and bronzer, valued together at $478.62.

A jury of five women and seven men will hear the case starting at 9 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 24.

Price, represented by Huntingdon County’s chief public defender Fred Gutshall, is charged with the second-degree misdemeanor offense of retail theft relative to an alleged incident May 21 of last year at Martin General Store along Route 22 in Porter Township. State police at Huntingdon allege Price took various snacks valued at $15.77 from the convenience store.

Nine women and three men were selected to hear Price’s one-day trial scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22.

Monday’s court session marked the first criminal trial selection of the new year. Huntingdon County President Judge George Zanic said 35 cases were scheduled leading up to selection day but noted the collective efforts of prosecutors and defenders working Friday and throughout the day Monday resolved a number of cases through pleas and other circumstances.

At the end of the selection process, the judge took one of the prospective jurors — who demonstrated his displeasure throughout the morning with being called for jury duty — into the secondary courtroom for a brief contempt hearing.

Zanic compared Thomas James’ behavior to that of “class clown” and explained his conduct was inappropriate.

“I could fine you,” Zanic said, but he instead ordered James to report for jury duty March 4.

The court addressed the following during’s Monday’s session:

— Carlos Lopez-Perez, 53, entered a guilty plea to simple assault relative to an incident in the dining hall at SCI Huntingdon Aug. 14, 2017. State police at Huntingdon say Lopez struck a corrections officer with a metal lunch tray at which point a food service instructor intervened and suffered a broken leg as he and Lopez fell to the ground. Police say the employee required two surgeries to repair his leg. Lopez will serve one to two years consecutive to his current sentence — a three-to-seven-year span on drug-related charges out of Lancaster County.

— Raymond Hainey, 33, was fined $100 and sentenced to six to 12 months for a first-degree misdemeanor charge of contraband, specifically a cellphone, while incarcerated at SCI Huntingdon Jan. 27, 2018. Hainey, now housed at SCI Rockview, is serving 15-30 years in state prison on a third degree murder conviction out of Philadelphia County. Monday’s sentence is concurrent to the time he’s already serving.

— Ronald Branham, 38, received a $50 fine for a misdemeanor charge of possession of a controlled substance. State police at Huntingdon report 57 pieces of Suboxone were found in Brantham’s jacket during a search at SCI Huntingdon Oct. 30. 2017.

Rebecca can be reached at dnews@huntingdondailynews.com.


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