Meadville Tribune

Local News

December 31, 2013

Convicted tavern robber awaits word on new trial

MEADVILLE — A Meadville-area man sentenced to more than three decades of prison in November for a series of armed tavern robberies around the county is currently awaiting a ruling on his appeal for a new trial.

Michael D. Ferguson, 38, of 9662 Kennedy Hill Road appeared Tuesday before President Judge Anthony J. Vardaro of Crawford County Court of Common Pleas to defend his post-sentence motion for a new trial and in arrest of judgment.

If his motion is granted, Ferguson’s case status would revert to a place prior to indictment, where the court would then either reconvict or discharge him.

Ferguson was convicted at a jury trial in September of the early-morning armed robberies of three area taverns in 2012 — The Owl’s Nest near Saegertown on July 22; Nate’s Bar and Grill in Greenwood Township on July 22; and the Double D Bar in Venango on July 30.

A jury also convicted Ferguson of simple assault and harassment for assaulting his co-conspirator Harry Boyer Jr. at the Crawford County jail on Aug. 28, 2012, following their arrest.

Defense attorney Bruce Barrett, representing Ferguson before Vardaro Tuesday morning, raised what he believed to be the main issues for a new trial. Those included what he called a court error in joining Ferguson’s robbery and later simple assault cases and that the jury deliberated too quickly to constitute a fair trial, claiming it spent no more than a minute on a verdict for each of Ferguson’s 42 charges.

Barrett also questioned the credibility of several eyewitness testimonies, especially Boyer’s, on the grounds of inconsistencies with physical evidence.

Paula DiGiacomo, assistant district attorney, said the court found no fault or jury prejudice with the inclusion of the simple assault case, stating the two were connected by Ferguson’s statements to police about the robberies.

As for the jury’s supposedly quick deliberation regarding the trial, DiGiacomo called it a testimony to the strength of the commonwealth’s case against Ferguson, with the weight of forensic evidence and additional testimonies giving credit to Boyer’s statements.

Vardaro made no ruling after the attorney statements but said a decision will be reached within 120 days of when the original motion was filed.

Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kfekos@meadvilletribune.com.

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