Thursday, July 05, 2012

Indictment Charging Berwick-Area Residents with Possession and Conspiracy to Possess Body Armor by Violent Felon Unsealed

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced the unsealing of a two-count indictment against Malek Abdul Washington, age 35, and Deanna Marie Harper, age 25, of Berwick, Pennsylvania. The indictment returned by a Williamsport grand jury on June 28 charged Washington and Harper with conspiracy to possess body armor by a person convicted of a crime of violence. Washington also is charged with illegal possession of body armor by a person convicted of a crime of violence.

The indictment was unsealed following the arrest of Washington and Harper on June 29. Both defendants had an initial appearance Monday before United States Magistrate Judge William I. Arbuckle, III. Washington was ordered detained; Harper was released. Jury trial is scheduled for September 5, 2012.

According to United States Attorney Peter J. Smith, the indictment alleges that on August 30, 2011, Washington and Harper sold a camouflage-colored outer tactical vest designed for ballistic protection and equipped with hard armor plates to another person known to the grand jury in exchange for $100 in cash. The indictment alleges that Washington and Harper sold the body armor from their residence near Berwick. The indictment also states that at the time of the transaction, Washington was previously convicted of felony offenses that were crimes of violence under federal law.

If convicted of all the charges alleged in the indictment, Washington and Harper each face a total maximum term of eight years in prison and on each count of conviction also face a three-year supervised release term, a fine of up to $250,000, and a special assessment of $100.

The case was investigated by the Pennsylvania State Police, the Columbia County Drug Task Force, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Prosecution of this matter has been assigned to Assistant United States Attorney George J. Rocktashel.

An indictment or information is not evidence of guilt but simply a description of the charge made by the grand jury and/or United States Attorney against a defendant. A charged defendant is presumed innocent until a jury returns a unanimous finding that the United States has proven the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt or until the defendant has pled guilty to the charges.

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