CLEARFIELD – On Thursday, a jury deliberated for approximately two hours before acquitting a Woodland man of felony aggravated assault.
Ralph C. Best, 60, was also acquitted of one misdemeanor count of reckless endangerment for reportedly holding his ex-girlfriend down at gunpoint.
Best was convicted of misdemeanor terroristic threats, simple assault and one count of reckless endangerment for laying the weapon in the woman’s left hand prior to its discharge.
The jury entered into deliberations at approximately 11:15 a.m., and court reconvened at 12:43 p.m. when the jury asked for clarification on the most serious charge.
President Judge Fredric Ammerman reviewed the law and specific elements concerning aggravated assault; approximately 45 minutes later, the jury returned with its verdict.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Warren B. Mikesell II. Best was represented by defense attorney Ryan Dobo of the Public Defender’s office.
According to Mikesell, Best’s ex-girlfriend was at her Lawrence Township home the early-morning hours of June 9, 2021 and had just celebrated her friend’s birthday when Best showed up.
“After some persuasion,” he said the woman eventually let Best inside to talk, but instead an altercation broke out in a basement bedroom.
Mikesell said Best held the woman down on a bed, took her loaded .22-caliber five-shot revolver and put it to her head before counting 1, 2, 3 and cocking the weapon.
“‘I thought I was dead.’ Those were her words,” Mikesell said, and because it was her gun and it had no trigger guard, she knew how easily it could fire.
He said Best – at some point – placed the gun in the woman’s left hand and as they both struggled for control, one round discharged and fortunately no one was seriously injured or killed.
Though this occurred with the weapon in the woman’s hand, Mikesell said she didn’t cause it to fire, as Best was still holding her down and there was very little she could do.
“He had her gun. She got a permit to carry, she got this gun for her protection because of the defendant,” Mikesell said. “She was terrified of him.”
In closing, Dobo described how Best and the woman had an “iffy, on-and-off” relationship, and that this was nothing more than a case of “he said, she said.”
“Law enforcement was called prematurely and absolutely nothing was done. There was a complete lack of investigation and their case is all speculation.”
“They have no clue – whatsoever – what happened,” Dobo continued, arguing that “now we’re all here” for trial so the jury can figure it out.
The commonwealth was pleased justice was served with Best’s conviction of terroristic threats, simple assault and reckless endangerment, said District Attorney Ryan Sayers.
Best has two other cases still pending including a felony firearm violation in connection with this assault case, as well as a separate simple assault case.
Best’s bail remains set at $45,000, which he’s posted, but will be under the supervision of the Clearfield County Adult Probation Department.