Mount Carmel meth blast suspect waives hearing
MOUNT CARMEL - A 30-year-old borough man charged with operating a "one-pot" methamphetamine laboratory that exploded last month was ordered to appear for a pre-trial conference Jan. 10 in the Court of Common Pleas after waiving his right to a preliminary hearing Wednesday afternoon.
John K. Carl, of 46 E. Avenue, who faces multiple felony charges, told Magisterial District Judge Hugh Jones that he understood the ramifications of waiving the hearing.
Carl's attorney, Vincent V. Rovito Jr. of Shamokin, said he fully explained to his client that by waiving the hearing the case would proceed to county court. Rovito did not request a bail reduction for Carl, who remains incarcerated at Northumberland County Prison in Sunbury in lieu of $100,000 cash bail.
'Our right to trial'
When asked if his client would seek a plea agreement or take the case to trial, Rovito said, "We are reserving our right to trial if necessary. The case will now proceed to a pre-trial conference."
Several family members and friends attended Carl's brief legal proceeding and the defendant spoke briefly with his girlfriend in the presence of Rovito prior to the hearing.
While Carl was being escorted from the courtroom by police and Constable Larry Rompallo, several of his relatives warned him to hide his face from a newspaper photographer waiting outside, which he did. Carl made an obscene gesture toward the photographer and also uttered a sarcastic remark.
Carl, whose hearing was continued last month, was wearing a green hoodie, an orange county jail jumpsuit and sneakers. His arms and legs were shackled.
At his pre-trial conference, Carl can plead guilty or no contest, or seek a trial by pleading not guilty.
Mount Carmel Patrolmen Matthew Dillman and Justin Stelma charged Carl with felonies of arson, operating a methamphetamine laboratory, manufacturing methamphetamine and causing or risking a catastrophe, and misdemeanors of recklessly endangering another person and possession of drug paraphernalia.
The charges relate to an explosion that occurred about 8:45 p.m. Oct. 20 in an East Cherry Street garage in Carl's backyard between Hickory and Oak streets.
Carl, who suffered respiratory burns, was taken into custody after the explosion and subsequently transported by ambulance personnel to Geisinger Medical Center, Danville, where he underwent emergency room treatment before being discharged the next morning.
According to a police affidavit, Stelma detected a noxious odor coming from the garage. While looking through a garage window, Stelma identified materials used to make methamphetamine, including lye, ice packs, salt and lithium battery strips. Stelma knocked on the window, and Carl turned toward him before scooping up the materials and running to an exit.
Mount Carmel Chief of Police Todd Owens said Carl and Stelma met at the end of the garage and the bottle exploded; Owens said too much agitation causes a violent chemical reaction.
Stelma was not seriously injured and was decontaminated as a precaution, Owens said.
The further risk of explosion was minimal, police said.
The fire from the explosion was extinguished by firefighters, who assisted police in evacuating houses immediately neighboring the scene.