Charles Shaffer's lastest attempt to overturn 15-35 year sentence denied by Court.
LOCK HAVEN — Clinton County Judge Michael F. Salisbury has once again denied a new trial for Charles A. Shaffer Jr., of Lock Haven. Shaffer was convicted in April of 2016 by a jury in Clinton County of criminal attempt homicide, aggravated assault, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and reckless endangerment in connection with a shooting on Dec. 18, 2014. On August 8, 2016, Shaffer was sentenced to 15 to 35 years in state prison.
In that incident, Shaffer shot another man, Casey Farley, at 527 W. Main St., Lock Haven, where both men resided. Farley was rushed for emergency surgery where the contents of a 12 gauge shotgun shell were removed from his abdomen. Fortunately, Farley survived.
In his most recent attempt to overturn his convictions, Shaffer filed a Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) Petition with the Court in December of 2019. Shaffer alleged that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to present certain evidence at trial and throughout his post-sentence proceedings and an evidentiary hearing was held on the Petition on July 20, 2020.
Both parties were ordered to submit their arguments by brief to the Court in the weeks following the July hearing. Through his new attorney, Gerard Mangieri of Harrisburg, Shaffer first argued that his trial attorney should have sought to have the trial judge recused before the trial commenced. Shaffer also alleged that his trial attorney should have introduced evidence about the victim, Farley, and the timing of his eventual civil lawsuit against Shaffer. Mangieri argued that trial counsel's failure to do either constituted ineffectiveness, and that Shaffer would have been found not guilty if trial counsel had acted appropriately.
The Commonwealth, represented by DA Dave Strouse, argued that both of the claims presented by Shaffer were meritless, pointing out that trial counsel could not have been ineffective because the evidence that Shaffer claimed should have been presented didn't actually exist. The Commonwealth pointed out that the witnesses and evidence that Shaffer's team had presented in support of the Petition didn't support either of their own claims, and Shaffer's trial counsel didn't pursue the issues because he knew that also.
Ultimately, in an 11-page Opinion and Order, Judge Salisbury agreed with the Commonwealth. Salisbury wrote that the recusal issue was not an error committed by trial counsel, pointing out the fact that the trial court didn't find Shaffer guilty, the jury did. Salisbury went on to agree with the Commonwealth on the remaining claims, referring to the Commonwealth's brief that the witnesses that Shaffer presented simply "were not helpful to the defense". Finally, Salisbury found that nothing presented by Shaffer would have "been beneficial under the circumstances of the case" and denied the request for a new trial.
Shaffer's most recent effort to vacate his convictions and get a new trial were after his last attempt was denied by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in January of 2019.