Man charged with attempted homicide of girlfriend waives
SUNBURY - A city man charged with attempted homicide who reportedly takes psychotropic medications for a mental health disorder waived his right to a preliminary hearing Tuesday afternoon after sitting in Magisterial District Judge Benjamin Apfelbaum's office for about 2 1/2 hours.
Aaron Keith Brannon, 28, of 129 Chestnut St., Apt. 1, initially wanted to take a full hearing involving testimony, but for some reason changed his mind after conferring with family members and opted to forfeit his right to the legal proceeding.
Neither public defender Edward Greco nor first assistant district attorney Ann Targonski offered an explanation why the defendant changed his mind about.
Brannon is charged by Sunbury Officer Stephen Bennick with a felony of attempted criminal homicide, two felony counts of aggravated assault and a felony of possessing a firearm while being a former convict, and four misdemeanors of terroristic threats, possessing instruments of crime, prohibited offensive weapons and recklessly endangering another person.
He is accused of firing a gun at his 27-year-old girlfriend, Tabitha Jones, on Jan. 2 in their apartment. The bullet reportedly hit a wall in their bedroom. Jones, who was visibly shaken and highly upset, was not injured, police said.
Jones, who told police Brannon was intoxicated and angry when he fired the handgun, said she had recently broken up with Brannon due to infidelity.
She also attended the legal proceeding and actually sat near Brannon's family members in the courtroom after initially taking a seat away from them.
Brannon, who told the judge he was homeless at one point, was remanded back to Northumberland County Prison after failing to provide bail, which was reduced by Apfelbaum from $1,250,000 to $500,000 cash. He is now scheduled to appear for a pre-trial conference at Northumberland County Courthouse.
The defendant, who had his legs and hands shackled while wearing sneakers and an orange prison jumpsuit, patiently sat in the courtroom before periodically being escorted into an adjoining room to confer with Greco, who serves as county chief public defender. Upon returning to the courtroom on one occasion, Brannon told the media he was having a hearing, but after his father, stepmother and other family members walked into the courtroom, hugged him and talked to him and his attorney in private, the judge informed the media that Brannon decided to forgo the hearing and waive the case to the Court of Common Pleas.
The defendant said he was taking psychotropic medications for a mental health disorder.
During his arraignment Jan. 2, Brannon told the judge his grandfather died recently and he's been depressed since a different breakup two years ago. He claimed his intent was to shoot himself instead of Jones.
Brannon, who coughed and sneezed a couple times waiting for his case to go before the judge, said he has lived in Sunbury for about three years after moving from New Jersey, where he resided most of his life. He told the judge he was employed as a maintenance man for a Sunbury business and that he would live with his father and stepmother if released on bail.
Targonski opposed any bail reduction while citing the seriousness of the offenses and the defendant's extensive criminal record and prior incarceration for possessing a firearm and other felony charges.
Targonski said, "Guns and alcohol are a recipe for disaster."
After Brannon's father, who refused to give his name to a reporter, said he supported his son and would allow him to live at his alcohol and drug free home, Apfelbaum told the defendant he was fortunate to have people who care about him, but believed it was necessary to keep bail high due to the seriousness of the charges.
"This is about as serious as it gets short of committing homicide," Apfelbaum told Brannon before lowering the bail and adjourning court.
The hearing was scheduled to begin at 1 p.m., but didn't start until 3:40 p.m. In addition to the usual bartering among attorneys and delays in the legal process attributed to the new surroundings, the hearing was further delayed due to an order issued last year by recently retired county president judge Robert B. Sacavage for magisterial district judges to resolve cases involving inmates first to expedite transportation procedures for municipal police in light of the county commissioners' decision to stop using constables to transport prisoners to and from hearings.
Apfelbaum said he didn't agree with the order, but felt compelled to comply with it. He said the process of taking inmates' cases first resulted in delays in the past that were not as pronounced as Tuesday's problems.
All of the inmates scheduled for hearings had their cases resolved before Brannon waived his hearing.
The judge said he plans to talk with new president judge William H. Wiest about lifting the order.