CLEARFIELD – A state prison inmate charged for his involvement with a riot in State Correctional Institution at Houtzdale is continuing to ask for his guilty plea to be withdrawn.
Yafest Oliver, 28, is charged with four counts each of aggravated assault, assault by prisoner, simple assault, and harassment: two counts each of conspiracy/aggravated assault, conspiracy/assault by prisoner, conspiracy/simple assault and conspiracy/harassment, and conspiracy/riot, in addition to one count of riot and disorderly conduct.
According to previous reports, Oliver was one of several inmates who kicked and punched corrections officers at the prison in April of 2015. Four officers who were injured that day had to be taken to UPMC Altoona for treatment. The facility was on lock down for about eight hours.
Oliver signed a plea agreement on June 16, but in July he informed his attorney that he wanted to withdraw that plea. An official motion to withdraw the plea was then filed.
In August, a hearing to discuss this motion was held before President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman during which Oliver claimed he was under the influence of Topamax and Benadryl when he signed the agreement and didn’t understand what he was doing.
He stated then that he was innocent and wanted to take his case to a trial. He also said he has limited reading skills, which made it difficult for him to answer the questions on the written colloquy form.
The hearing was to be continued at a later date to include testimony from medical personnel at the prison about Oliver’s competence at the time he signed the plea.
On Monday, a motion from the public defender’s office asking to withdraw from the case was discussed. Oliver, appearing via video conference, said that he felt Douglas Campbell, his attorney from that office, pressured him to sign the plea.
Oliver asked if Ammerman granted the motion, if he could have an attorney or someone to advise him with the motion to withdraw his guilty plea.
Ammerman first granted the motion for the public defenders to withdraw. He then gave Oliver 30 days to file a motion asking him to appoint a new attorney or stand-by counsel.
Another hearing will be scheduled to discuss the motion to withdraw his guilty plea after that time.
Oliver is currently serving a 20- to 40-year state sentence for a 2008 murder in Philadelphia.