Conewago Twp.'s Chad Stoner pleads to 1 charge; trial starts Monday
A Conewago Township man charged federally with threatening township officials and police has pleaded guilty to a weapons charge but is still scheduled to go to trial next week.
Chad Stoner, 29, of Copenhaffer Road, appeared in Harrisburg's federal court on Tuesday, Nov. 28, and pleaded guilty to one count of being a felon in illegal possession of a firearm.
His remaining weapons charges are expected to be dismissed at his eventual sentencing hearing, according to his defense attorney, Davis Younts.
Stoner's federal trial is still set to begin Monday, Dec. 4, on his charges of transmitting a threat in interstate commerce, conspiracy to commit that offense and two counts of mailing threatening communications.
He also remains charged in York County with disrupting a public meeting, making terroristic threats and other offenses.
Stoner's federal plea was conditional, according to Younts, meaning he retains the right to appeal presiding U.S. District Judge Yvette Kane's ruling on a key pretrial issue for the defense.
That issue is whether Stoner should have known he is considered a "felon."
He pleaded guilty in 2007 in York County Court to making terroristic threats, which is a first-degree misdemeanor under Pennsylvania law. However, because the crime is punishable by a year or more in prison, it's considered a felony by federal authorities.
Strategy blocked: Younts has said he wanted to introduce testimony that Stoner was erroneously told by an attorney that the offense didn't constitute a felony and that he could therefore own firearms.
But federal prosecutors asked the judge to block the defense strategy, and Kane granted that motion.
"We weren't going to be allowed to present any of that at trial," Younts said. "And that will be something he can now take to the (U.S.) Third Circuit Court of Appeals."
Younts said the plea also will simplify trial.
"We believe the negotiation of a conditional plea that preserves his right to appeal is absolutely in his best interest," the attorney said.
Younts confirmed the offense to which Stoner pleaded guilty carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, although less time could be imposed.
The background: Stoner's alleged threats spurred Conewago Township supervisors to arm themselves for protection, according to court documents.
He also is accused of making threatening statements during phone calls with family members and girlfriend Emily Winand.
On Aug. 4, 2016, Stoner walked into the Conewago Township building and allegedly made threats while Winand recorded him, police said. She later posted video of the encounter on YouTube.
In the video, he suggests the municipality "could turn into Houston" — he meant Dallas — and added, "That's where they shot all them cops."
In his home safe, Stoner kept the home addresses and other personal information of Northern York County Regional officers, court documents state.
Maintains innocence: Stoner maintains his innocence, according to Younts, who confirmed Stoner is facing a lengthy federal prison sentence if convicted on all charges.
Stoner's and Winand's federal indictment states 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.
Winand pleaded guilty Oct. 10 to obstruction of justice and conspiracy to transmit a threat via interstate commerce.
She is awaiting sentencing.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.