Gadfly's 'felon' status at issue; girlfriend signs plea agreement
Whether Conewago Township gadfly Chad Stoner — accused, among other offenses, of being a felon in illegal possession of a gun — should have known he was considered a felon by federal authorities remains a pretrial point of contention between his attorney and federal prosecutors.
Because of that, a pretrial motions hearing scheduled for Monday, Oct. 2, in Harrisburg's federal court didn't happen. Instead, presiding U.S. District Judge Yvette Kane gave both sides more time to file briefs on the issue, defense attorney Davis Younts told The York Dispatch.
Also on Monday, federal authorities docketed a plea agreement between prosecutors and Stoner's girlfriend and co-defendant, Emily Winand.
Winand, 28, of Conewago Township, signed the plea agreement Sept. 19, according to court records, and U.S. Assistant Attorney Joseph Terz signed it Monday.
Winand has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to transmit a threat via interstate commerce, as well as to a charge of obstruction of justice, according to her agreement. Prosecutors allege she hid an assault-type rifle for Stoner and allegedly tried to destroy or hide guns so they couldn't be seized and their presence used against Stoner in court.
A date has not been set for Winand to plead guilty in court. The plea agreement states her maximum total sentence could be 25 years in prison.
The 'felon' issue: Stoner, 29, of Copenhaffer Road, has never pleaded to a felony-graded charge or been convicted of one, according to court records.
But in July 2007, he pleaded guilty in York County Court to the first-degree misdemeanor of making terroristic threats, for which he received a time-served sentence of two days in York County Prison, court records state. He spent 18 months on probation, records state.
In the federal court system, any offense punishable by at least a year in prison is considered a felony, according to federal court records. And in Pennsylvania, a first-degree misdemeanor generally carries a maximum possible prison sentence of up to five years.
Younts confirmed federal prosecutors in this case are classifying Stoner as a felon, and in fact have charged him with being a felon in illegal possession of a firearm.
Legal advice: However, a pretrial motion filed by Younts argues Stoner consulted with a local attorney at some point about whether he could legally possess firearms and was told he could.
In a prosecution brief, Terz notes that federal law requires him to prove only that Stoner knowingly possessed a gun — not that he knew the possession was unlawful.
"The fact that an attorney told Stoner he could lawfully possess a firearm is of no consequence as this fact does not negate any of the elements of the crime," Terz wrote.
Prosecutors are asking Judge Kane to bar the defense from telling jurors that Stoner sought the advice of counsel regarding gun ownership and was told he wasn't prohibited.
There are several other pretrial issues as well, including whether prosecutors will be allowed to tell jurors Stoner is allegedly affiliated with a militia. Younts is arguing that would be inflammatory.
Stoner's trial is currently set to begin with jury selection Nov. 6.
Superseding indictment: Stoner was federally indicted for a second time on Aug. 2, according to court records, in part for allegedly mailing threatening communications twice from York County Prison.
He was already indicted in federal court for allegedly transmitting an interstate communication containing a threat to injure police officers and Conewago Township officials, conspiracy to commit that offense and being a felon in illegal firearm possession, according to court records.
His superseding indictment added two additional counts of being a felon in illegal possession of a firearm.
Stoner remains accused of conspiring to post a video a year ago on YouTube of him allegedly making threats at the Conewago Township building.
In the video, he suggests the municipality "could turn into Houston" — he meant Dallas — and added, "That's where they shot all them cops."
He maintains his innocence, according to Younts, who confirmed Stoner is facing a lengthy federal prison sentence if convicted on all charges.
Township clashes: Stoner clashed with Conewago Township officials for about two years, according to his former defense attorney, Farley Holt.
Northern York County Regional Police said they were called to the township building about 7:15 p.m. Aug. 3, 2016, because Stoner was causing a disturbance at a township supervisors meeting.
For that incident, Stoner is charged in York County with disrupting a public meeting and disorderly conduct.
The next day, he and Winand went into the Conewago Township building and spoke with township manager Lou Anne Bostic.
Stoner asked to be placed on the agenda for the next township supervisors meeting regarding "official corruption" between the Northern Regional Police and a township official. That's where he mentioned Conewago Township turning into "Houston."
Holt previously told The York Dispatch that Stoner never threatened to shoot police.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.