Chad Stoner faces lengthy federal sentence, attorney says
A federal jury in Harrisburg took about three hours to convict Conewago Township "gadfly" Chad Stoner of all four charges against him.
About 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5, jurors found him guilty of transmitting a threat through interstate commerce (jurors found he posted threats over the internet), conspiracy to commit that offense and two counts of mailing threatening communications. Jurors determined he wrote threatening statements about police in letters to his girlfriend.
Stoner, 29, of the 900 block of Copenhaffer Road, remains locked up pending sentencing, which has not yet been set by presiding U.S. District Judge Yvette Kane.
He faces a fifth charge at sentencing. Stoner pleaded guilty Nov. 28 in federal court to one count of being a felon in illegal possession of a firearm.
He did not stand trial on remaining weapons charges, and they are expected to be dismissed, according to Davis Younts, one of Stoner's defense attorneys. Those remaining charges include counts of being a felon in illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.
"There are issues to be addressed on appeal," Younts told The York Dispatch. He said Stoner maintains his innocence.
Co-defense attorney Jonathan Crisp described Stoner as a gadfly to jurors.
Assistant U.S. attorney Joseph Terz said he was pleased by the verdict and will have more to say after Stoner is sentenced.
Closing arguments: During their closing arguments Tuesday morning, the attorneys disagreed about what the case was really about and what Stoner meant when he made threatening statements to police and township officials.
"Context," Crisp said in closing. "You can sum up this case ... with (that) one word."
Crisp told jurors they needed to consider "the social milieu that existed in this township," which included another resident making remarks about "going all Ruby Ridge" on people.
"Is it extreme? Is it conspiracy theories? Yeah, it is," Crisp acknowledged, but he said that's what Stoner believes.
Not 'rhetoric': Terz told jurors it's illegal to threaten to kill police officers.
"And that's why we're here, because that's what he did," Terz said. "This case is not about political rhetoric."
He reminded jurors that Conewago Township officials testified that they beefed up security measures because they were concerned about what Stoner might do. That included installing cameras and electric buzzers at the township building and having officials park in a locked lot.
The three township supervisors even started carrying handguns for protection, according to trial testimony, and made plans to install "bulletproof" glass at the transaction window. (Stoner pointed out in a letter to live-in girlfriend Emily Winand that the glass is actually only bullet resistant and that 5.56 Raufoss rounds would cut through it "like a hot knife through butter.")
"These people ... were scared of this man," Terz argued. "And why wouldn't they be?"
Packing BB gun: When Stoner went to the Conewago Township building on Aug. 4, 2016, and allegedly made a garbled threat that Conewago Township could turn into Dallas, he had a sheath knife on his belt and what appeared to be a handgun strapped to his thigh, according to testimony.
Northern Regional Police Detective Mark Baker testified Tuesday morning that when he first saw the gun that Stoner had in a thigh holster, he believed it was real. And that led to Terz's next question to jurors:
"Why in the world is a grown man ... walking round with a BB gun strapped to his thigh?" Terz asked. "There is one reason he wore this gun: To intimidate."
In response to the defense theory that Stoner was all talk, Terz reminded jurors that in a letter to Winand from York County Prison, he instructed her to buy armor-piercing ammunition.
'Stock up': "Just get as much of the 5.56 armer piercing Raufoss that you can. That's the best ammo ... for the AR. Those are the 'cop killers.' Which I think we should stock up on right now!"
Terz also reminded jurors that when Baker arrested Stoner on Aug. 5, 2016, for his alleged threat the day before to the Conewago Township manager, an angry Stoner told the detective, "Your days are numbered."
Terz also reiterated that when Northern Regional Officer Zachary Grey arrested Stoner at the Aug. 3, 2016, township meeting, he told the officer, "You know that safety contingency plan? You're gonna need it."
Testimony revealed the township had posted a number of flyers in the building on "how to respond when an active shooter is in your vicinity." Testimony indicated the active-shooter flyers were the only safety contingency plan the township had.
Stoner also kept inside his home safe notes that included the names of Northern Regional officers and their wives, information about their children and families and the officers' home addresses.
Terz said when Stoner and Winand agreed to post the video of that alleged threat, which she recorded on her cellphone, Stoner had already been charged with making a terroristic threat, so he was "on notice" at that point.
"He had reason to believe this would be viewed as a threat," the prosecutor said.
The background: Stoner had been clashing with Conewago Township officials and Northern Regional Police for some time when he allegedly disrupted the township supervisors' Aug. 3, 2016, public meeting and was arrested and removed.
It was the next day that he and Winand returned to the building and spoke with township manager Lou Anne Bostic. It was to her that Stoner made his garbled statement referencing the July 2016 police massacre in Dallas.
He and Winand then posted videos of both confrontations on YouTube.
Winand, 28, was set to stand trial with Stoner but in October pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and conspiracy to transmit a threat via interstate commerce. She, too, is awaiting sentencing.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.