Charges dropped against teen in 'Goon Squad' case
SUNBURY - All charges were withdrawn Tuesday against one of the five teenagers in the "Goon Squad" case involving an assault in downtown Shamokin in February.
District Attorney Tony Rosini, midway through the juvenile court adjudication hearing for Gage Cossari, 16, of Shamokin, asked that the charges be withdrawn.
"The victim could not identify if the defendant actually did strike him during the confrontation," William Rossnock, deputy chief of juvenile probation, said later Tuesday in confirming the disposition.
Rosini said an eyewitness who had broken up the fight could also not identify Cossari as having been at the scene. Because of the conflicts in testimony, he chose to withdraw the charges.
To Cossari's parents, the DA's decision validates what they've argued all along: that Gage was standing down the street and was never involved in the altercation, which took place in the 400 block of Independence Street Feb. 23. They also dispute his involvement in the alleged Goon Squad.
Shamokin police Patrolman William Miner filed charges Feb. 27 against Ryan Forte, 18, of 18 S. Market St., Apt. 1, who was charged as an adult, and against Cossari, Chad Lytle, 17, and his brothers, Seth, 15, and Kyle, 14, all of Shamokin, as juveniles. They were charged in connection with the attack on Keith "KC" Long, 18, of Shamokin, who needed hospital treatment for a broken nose, a cut to his lower lip that required five stitches, four damaged teeth, broken braces and severe facial swelling.
Forte, Cossari and Chad Lytle were charged with assaulting Long before fleeing when a passer-by stopped to assist the victim.
The charges against Forte included felonies of criminal conspiracy to commit aggravated assault and aggravated assault and riot, and misdemeanors of simple assault and disorderly conduct. On May 19, he pleaded guilty to the first charge and was sentenced by Northumberland County Judge William Wiest to 2 to 4 years in a state correctional institution. The other charges were not prosecuted.
On March 11, Chad Lytle was adjudicated delinquent by Wiest in juvenile court, the equivalent of being found guilty in adult court, on felonies of criminal conspiracy to commit aggravated assault and riot, and misdemeanors of simple assault and disorderly conduct. Two weeks later, he was sentenced to 30 days in Northwestern Academy's VCORE (Vocationally Educating Cadets on Responsibility Through Environment) boot camp program and then on electronic monitoring program for up to 90 days. He had been placed in Northwestern after his adjudication hearing.
The cases against Seth and Kyle Lytle, who were charged with riot and disorderly conduct, are still pending in juvenile court.
Cossari's parents and other defendants' family members claimed police were overstating the presence of such a gang. There was a local group of kids known as the Goon Squad, but there were known for doing video parodies on YouTube, they said.
Police said the Goon Squad had been involved in fights, vandalism and intimidation during the first two months of the year in the city. Edward Griffiths, police chief at the time, said the Goon Squad was a bunch of "wannabees."
In addition to the Feb. 23 assault, Griffiths addressed the issue after a March 1 fight on Market Street that resulted in charges of disorderly conduct against six people, two of whom were alleged Goon Squad members.
Griffiths said at the time he wasn't expecting any further trouble and that the Feb. 23 assault and March 1 fight were not gang-related and were isolated incidents.
There has been no mention by police of Goon Squad activity since the March 1 incident.