Jurors see Chad Stoner's videos, hear his phone calls
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Terz told jurors that Chad Stoner threatened Conewago Township officials and Northern York County Regional Police on video he later posted online and also made threats to kill police in phone calls he made and letters he wrote from York County Prison.
During his opening statement Monday, Dec. 4, Terz laid out for the six-woman, eight-man jury the testimony they would hear. Five witnesses testified Monday and several more are expected to testify Tuesday, Dec. 5.
But defense attorney Jonathan Crisp said that while Stoner's comments, when considered "in a vacuum," are true, they must be taken in context.
"My client was ... a gadfly," Crisp said. "He was constantly pushing the township based on what he believed was corrupt behavior."
Crisp said that Stoner was "in some cases misguided" but argued his client never actually made a real threat to hurt or kill anyone.
Jurors briefly heard that Stoner and his family, including girlfriend Emily Winand, live together in the 900 block of Copenhaffer Road in Conewago Township and were engaged in a right-of-way property dispute with a neighbor.
Stoner, 29, believed the township and police were against his family in the dispute, Crisp said, adding that while Stoner was outspoken and angry, he didn't intend to hurt anyone.
"Is this the guy we all know who spouts off (all the time)?" the attorney asked. "Someone who pokes and picks and prods to try to get a response?"
Witnesses: Northern York County Regional Officer Zachary Grey testified first, confirming he was called to the Aug. 3, 2016, Conewago Township supervisors' meeting because Stoner was creating a disturbance.(See meeting video.)
At the meeting, Stoner wore a large knife on his belt and an empty gun holster on his thigh.
He was arrested after refusing to speak at a public podium and microphone, then not allowing the meeting to continue.
Also testifying was Lorreta Wilhide, chairwoman of the Conewago Township supervisors and a member of the Northern Regional Police commission.
She testified that the podium and microphone were set up after the July 2016 meeting, in which Stoner "aggressively" approached the supervisors' table twice.
Wilhide testified that Stoner's previous behavior prompted all three supervisors to carry handguns and to have security cameras installed in the township building. The township also posted an informational sheet on what to do in an active-shooter situation, she said, adding that also was in response to Stoner's behavior.
Wilhide said she carried a gun because she was "in fear of my safety" from Stoner.
She said she was shaken up by the encounter at the meeting when Stoner repeatedly refused to stand at the podium to speak.
"I find that arbitrary and I don't want to do it ... unless you give me a good reason," he says on video. "Either we can stand here and argue and tie this whole meeting up for your simple, arbitrary and capricious rule, or I can continue on as I was and then I can sit down and you don't have to deal with me any more."
'Jack-booted thugs': When another supervisor balks, Wilhide says she has a suggestion, but Stoner cuts her off.
"Uh, no. Public comment is not over. You cannot supersede my public comment," he says. "I will not allow you to continue on. You better call your jack-booted thugs and have 'em get over here."
He was then arrested and charged with disrupting a public meeting. As Grey cuffed Stoner, Stoner tells him, "You know that safety contingency plan? You're gonna need it."
The next day, Aug. 4, 2016, Stoner walks into the Conewago Township building and speaks with township manager Lou Anne Bostic as Winand records him with her cellphone.(See video at the top of this article.)
Bostic testified Monday that Stoner was carrying a large knife on his belt and had what appeared to be a real gun in a holster strapped to his thigh. The weapons can be seen in the video Winand recorded, which the couple later agreed to post on YouTube, according to evidence.
During opening statements, Terz told jurors the handgun appears to be real but is in fact a BB gun.
Bostic said Stoner wanted to be placed on the agenda for the next supervisors' meeting regarding "official corruption between the Northern Regionals and Lorreta Wilhide ... and Lorreta Wilhide's clear and present prejudicial attacks that she's taking upon on me."
Dallas massacre: He then told Bostic, "I have a feeling, now this is just my personal belief, I think if she continues to act in the way that she is, I think Houston, Texas, is gonna turn into Conewago Township. ... That's where they shot all them cops."
Stoner meant Dallas, Texas, where five police officers were murdered and nine others were injured July 7, 2016, according to Terz. He made the statement less than a month after the mass killings.
As Stoner and Winand left the township building, he said to Bostic, "Call Lorreta and let her know I'm out."
He then laughed and said, "Oh that's just lovely!"
Bostic said she took it as a serious statement and called Northern Regional Police after taking a few minutes "to compose myself, because I was a little shaken up."
FBI Special Agent Gary Leone and state police Trooper Hugh Earhart, who worked together to investigate Stoner's alleged threats, also testified Monday.
During their testimony, jurors heard statements Stoner made to Winand and to his mother during recorded prison phone calls.
He and Winand discussed whether to post on YouTube the Aug. 4, 2016, video of them talking to Bostic.
"I'd f—ing do it," Stoner told her, and they started talking about how many people had seen the video after The York Dispatch linked to it in an online article.
"You stupid f—ks bit off way more than you could ever f—ing handle," he said during the phone call, but not addressing Winand.
He talked about the Dallas police massacre again and talked about engaging in "vigilante justice" when "the system" has become tyrannical.
Kept cops' info: Earhart testified that during a search of Stoner's home, he found a safe in the bedroom shared by Stoner and Winand. Inside the safe were notes that including the names of Northern Regional officers and their wives, information about their children and their home addresses.
It also had personal information of a local York attorney he apparently was upset with, including a specialty store where she supposedly shops regularly.
He also found letters Stoner sent to Winand from prison, with U.S. Postal Service postmarks of September 2016 and December 2016.
In the letters, Stoner wrote, "I truely believe we do need to kill more law enforcement or in other words 'domestic terrorists.'"
He also wrote, "I really hope more people start killing cops again," according to trial exhibits.
"There are a few people that are going to have hell to pay, when I do get out," Stoner wrote in the December 2016 prison letter, adding those people have done enough "to justify a retaliation. What's even better is I have a lot of time to plan."
Stoner's trial is set to resume at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Partial plea: Stoner pleaded guilty Nov 28 in federal court 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 co-defense attorney, Davis Younts.
The partial plea means Stoner is being tried only on charges of transmitting a threat in interstate commerce, conspiracy to commit that offense and two counts of mailing threatening communications.
Younts confirmed the offense to which Stoner pleaded guilty carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, although less time could be imposed.
Winand, 28, was set to stand trial with Stoner but in October pleaded guilty to two counts — obstruction of justice and conspiracy to transmit a threat via interstate commerce.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.