Witnesses tell different versions of fight, shooting
LOCK HAVEN — How many shots were fired?
Who held the guns?
How many people were involved in the altercation?
The answers varied Friday morning as witnesses’ stories took different turns and twists on the second day of the attempted murder trial of Joseph J. Newman Jr. of Mill Hall.
Newman is charged with attempted homicide, aggravated assault, carrying a firearm without a license, terroristic threats, simple assault and reckless endangerment in connection with a fight and included gun shots on the night of Aug. 22, 2016.
On the first day of the trial Thursday, witnesses for the Commonwealth were pretty much consistent when testifying about what happened that night in downtown Mill Hall.
But Friday morning that all changed, as did the details of the incident from each succeeding witness.
The morning began with three more prosecution witnesses and ended with three witnesses called by the defense.
Doug Smith took the stand first. Smith, a member of the Outsider Motorcycle Club, said he ran into Gary Lucas, also an Outsider, at Sheetz in Mill Hall. He said he was not familiar with Newman and the first time he met him was that night.
Smith said he and Gary Lucas were standing at 303 Main St. in Mill Hall talking when three men didn’t know were walking up East Arch Street. They were bantering back and forth, arguing and yelling, he said.
Gary started walking toward the noise and Smith said he followed. “I stayed behind him, but I wasn’t going to let him go alone,” Smith said.
Smith said he watched Lucas and Newman get into an altercation and saw Newman pull out a gun … automatic, dark in color and of medium size. “He (Newman) fired twice, first in the air and the second shot at Gary’s head,” Smith said. He said he saw two guns that night … the one Newman had and one held by Michael Bingaman. Bingaman fired two times at the ground, Smith said.
Next on the stand was Jennifer Workman of 300 Main St., Mill Hall, who said she heard “bickering, fighting, a couple of gunshots and men arguing.” When she looked outside, she said she saw Gary Lucas and Joseph Newman, her neighbor. She said she looked out the window and saw Newman with a gun in his hand, pointed toward Gary Lucas, aimed at the upper part of his body. She said when he fired the shot, she called 911.
Under cross examination, Taylor pointed out inconsistencies with her testimony today and when she was interviewed by Trooper Steve Dunkle. During that interview, Taylor said Workman said she saw a man in a white shirt with a gun and he fired it. The man in the white shirt that night has been identified as Michael Bingaman.
Bingaman testified that he had not known Newman very long… maybe three weeks. He said he is licensed to carry a small pistol and carries it most of the time. On the night in question, Bingaman said he had no clue what was going on and only walked down the street behind Newman and Schmidtberg. He said Schmidtberg had a knife and Newman was carrying a black handgun in his hand.
The trio stopped at about 10 E. Arch St., Bingaman said, and an argument broke out with Newman and some others. Newman came face to face with a big man in a bright green shirt, Bingaman continued. “I saw Newman pull the trigger. I know for sure at lease once… above the waist. I don’t know how close, but in the direction of the man. After Newman pulled out the gun I fired two shots at the ground. I was frightened… scared for my life. I shot in self-defense,” He said he didn’t see any other guns that night.
Bingaman said he was wrestled to the ground and punched and beaten by a group of people. He was treated at the hospital, he said.
Bingaman said his statement Friday in court was different from what he told the police the night of the altercation, when he said he didn’t remember seeing Newman with a gun.
“I didn’t tell the truth because I was threatened, my family was threatened if I said anything,” Bingaman said. Taylor quickly objected and Judge Michael Salisbury asked the stenographer to strike that testimony and the jury to disregard it.
For the defense, only three witnesses were called.
First was Patricia Weaver who lives in Jessamine Alley at the intersection with Main Street. She said there were a lot of people gathering outside. They came in cars, trucks and motorcycles, she said estimating the number at 50. She heard what sounded like a quarter stick or an M-80 two times, she said. As she stood on her front porch, she said she saw what looked like a black pistol on the sidewalk at the corner of Main and Arch streets. Under cross-examination, Weaver said her house is about a half-block from that corner.
James Schmidtberg was next on the stand with some surprising testimony. He said that the Taurus gun that Newman was supposedly carrying that night was actually in his possession. He said Bingaman gave it to him. Asked if he used it, he said, he didn’t get a chance to as it fell out of his pants while he was getting beaten by somebody.
The last witness was Michaela Baker, a friend of Joe Newman who said she was at Newman’s home that night when he received a call from Tim Moore. She said men were gathering outside. She estimated 20-30. She said she did not see Joe Newman with a firearm that night. She said she didn’t see any guns.
Under cross-examination by Strouse, as the video was played, Baker was asked who the person was in the street with a baseball bat. She said, “It’s me. I have the bat. It was ripped out of my hand by one of those guys … I don’t’ know their names.”
However, as the video continued, Baker was seen handing the bat to someone. She identified that person as Newman, who could be seen with the bat over his shoulder.
“They were getting beat up she said. I’m a momma bear. I had to do something.”
Before the closing arguments, Tim Moore was brought back to the stand by Strouse as a rebuttal witness. Strouse asked Moore if he told Newman on the night of the altercation that he was “coming into town 20 deep and was going to end it tonight.” Moore said “no.” Strouse also asked Moore if he saw Schmidtberg with a firearm that night. Moore again said “no.”