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Carbon man sent to state prison on firearms charges

Published May 31. 2013 05:03PM

A Carbon County man was sentenced to a state prison term on Monday after previously pleading guilty to illegal firearm possession.

He was one of five defendants who had entered guilty pleas at prior proceedings to be sentenced by Judge Steven R. Serfass.

Penn Forest incidents

Randy Edwin Merriman, 56, of Albrightsville, was sentenced to a total of 40 to 80 months in a state prison on counts of possession of a firearm by a person prohibited from possessing a weapon, driving under the influence (DUI), and two summary offenses of the motor vehicle code.

He was arrested on March 15, 2012, by state police at Fern Ridge for having several weapons in a residence at 136 Chippewa Trail in Penn Forest Township.

He was arrested on another weapons charge on July 12, 2012, when troopers were alerted that Merriman had purchased a shotgun and brought it to his residence. He was charged with another count of possession of a firearm by a person prohibited from possessing a weapon. Because of a prior criminal conviction Merriman is prohibited from possession firearms.

He was charged with impersonating a public servant (a police officer) for an incident on Oct. 25, 2011, in Penn Forest Township. He told a victim that he was a police officer from New Jersey. He was also found to have in his vehicle emergency lights and siren, which he was prohibited from possessions. In a plea bargain, he pleaded to the motor vehicle violations in exchange for the impersonating charge be dropped.

He was arrested for DUI on July 2, 2012, along Old Stage Road, in Penn Forest Township. Given a test, the result was .15 BAC.

In addition to the jail term, Serfass ordered Merriman to pay a total of $1,000 in fines on the two summary violations; a fine of $300 for the DUI count; one year license suspension for the DUI; get both drug and alcohol (D&A) and mental health evaluations and follow any recommendations for treatment; zero tolerance imposed on D&A use; supply a DNA sample; and have no contact with the victim in the impersonating officer case.

He was given credit for 384 days spent in jail to date on the charges.

Assault incidents

Terry Williams, 61, of Lehighton, was sentenced to serve a total of nine to one day less 24 months in the county prison on two counts of simple assault. The jail term will be followed by two years of probation.

Williams was arrested by Mahoning Township police for an incident on Feb. 28, 2012, at 111 Jamestown St. Police responded to the residence and found that Williams had assaulted his live-in girlfriend, Crystal West. On scene officers observed West had suffered a swollen right eye and other facial injuries inflicted by Williams by punching her.

The second assault count occurred on March 3, 2012, when police were called to the Lehighton hospital where West was being treated for injuries she suffered injuries inflicted by Williams.

Williams blamed his actions on alcohol abuse and told the court he would not drink again.

West asked the court to free Williams as she needed him to help pay bills. She and Williams both said they were trying to keep their relationship going.

However, Assistant District Attorney Jean A. Engler noted two aggravated assault counts were dropped in a plea agreement which was a break for Williams. She also said because of the serious injuries West suffered in the assaults, the public had to be protected from such actions.

Serfass, who viewed police photos taken of the injuries West sustained in the assault, rejected any consideration for a time-served sentence. He said, "The photographs are disturbing to say the least. There were serious injuries in this incident." Serfass added, "The court has an obligation to protect the public from such incidents."

In addition to the jail term, Williams was ordered to get both D&A and mental health evaluations, zero tolerance imposed on D&A use, and attend and complete anger management counseling. He was given credit for 85 days spent in jail to date on the charges and was granted work release consideration.

Other cases

Other defendants sentenced by Serfass included:

Damien Lamont Black, 30, of Philadelphia, was sentenced to serve 42 to 84 months in a state prison on a charge of criminal attempt to secure a controlled substance by misrepresentation.

He was arrested on July 30, 2012, at the Rite Aid Pharmacy in Lehighton where he presented a forged prescription to the pharmacy for oxycodone. The pharmacist realized it was a forged document and notified borough police. When Black returned to pickup the prescription police were waiting for him and took him into custody.

A request by Black to be sentenced in the mitigated range of state sentencing guidelines was rejected by Serfass, who noted the defendant had prior convictions.

In addition to the jail term, Black was ordered to get a D&A evaluation, and supply a DNA sample.

He began the jail term immediately. He was given credit for seven days spent in jail on the charge.

Naomi Turner Ellison, 30, of Lehighton, was sentenced to a county prison term on two counts of theft and one count of criminal conspiracy to acquire a controlled substance by fraud.

She and James Richard Jones, 33, also of Lehighton, had entered pleas to charges filed by Lehighton and Mahoning Township police, at an earlier court proceeding. Jones is awaiting sentencing.

Police charged the pair with using false names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers during emergency room visits at various hospitals throughout Carbon, Lehigh, and Schuylkill counties to obtain prescriptions for pain killers.

The incidents occurred in the Carbon area on Oct. 10, 12, and 14, at the Walmart Pharmacy in the township and at the emergency room of the Blue Mountain Health Systems-Lehighton Campus.

On the conspiracy count she was sentenced to serve 45 days in prison followed by 20 months and 45 days in the county's Intermediate Punishment Program (IPP). The 45 days will be spent wearing an electronic monitoring device.

She must also render a total of 150 hours of community service, zero tolerance on D&A use, and supply a DNA sample.

On the two theft counts she was placed on probation for six months on each count, running consecutively to all charges.

She will begin the jail term on May 31 serving consecutive weekends that will run from Friday's at 9 a.m. to Tuesday at 9 a.m.

Kelly Eckhart, 39, of Lehighton, was placed on probation for a total of two years on two counts of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance-marijuana, and one count of possession. She was arrested by state police vice unit for drug sales to an undercover officer that occurred at least four times, according to the police report. In each incident she sold one ounce of marijuana to the undercover officer.

She told Serfass, "I'm very sorry for what I've done."

Engler said the commonwealth was not opposing a probation sentence since it was Eckhart's first criminal arrest of any kind.

Eckhart was also ordered to make restitution to the state police at Hazleton for $1,320, get both D&A and mental health evaluations, zero tolerance imposed on D&A use, supply a DNA sample, and render 100 hours of community service.

Each defendant must also pay court costs, which average about $1,000, and pay a $50 per month supervision fee while on probation or parole.

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