CLEARFIELD – A new district judge will be assigned to preside over the preliminary hearing of an off-duty police officer accused of shooting a man at a nightclub in DuBois.
Zachery Allen Dodson, 27, of DuBois was originally charged with four counts of aggravated assault, two felony counts of terroristic threats, two misdemeanor counts of recklessly endangering another person, and three misdemeanor counts of simple assault in relation to an incident on Feb. 19 just before 1 a.m. at Invictus.
According to testimony at the preliminary hearing, Dodson was thrown out of the business but came back into the building. The owner approached him, and Dodson pulled out a gun. While the two were struggling, the gun went off, hitting another man in the face.
When this occurred, Dodson was a police officer with the Curwensville Borough police and he was also a deputy in the county sheriff’s office.
Because of his previous positions and interaction with all the Clearfield County district judges, a special judge was assigned to the case.
After a preliminary hearing in March, specially presiding Senior District Judge Carmine W. Prestia from Centre County ruled to dismiss one count each of aggravated assault, criminal attempt/aggravated assault, terroristic threats and recklessly endangering another person.
Earlier this month, charges of felony aggravated assault and terroristic threats, along with two misdemeanor counts of simple assault were re-filed by District Attorney Ryan Sayers.
In court on Friday, Senior Judge Timothy Creany of Cambria County specially presided over a hearing on a motion filed by the district attorney’s office asking that a new district judge be assigned to the case for the preliminary hearing on the additional charges.
First Assistant District Attorney Leanne Nedza stated that Prestia made an error in law by dismissing one of the aggravated assault charges after the preliminary hearing but sending the other on to the county court.
She questioned how he could determine that the injury to the victim’s face was not serious bodily injury.
Testimony at the hearing included information that the victim had a wound to his upper lip, lost some teeth and had another injury near his ear and his jaw was wired shut.
Dodson’s attorney, William A. Shaw Jr. countered this by saying that the charge of felony aggravated assault dismissed was an A1 rating, which requires evidence that the perpetrator intended to cause serious bodily injury or acted with malice.
“This was an accidental shooting,” he told Creany recalling the video footage of the incident where the owner of the business was trying to get control of Dodson’s arm and take him to the ground when the gun went off.
Shaw agreed it was a reckless act, but stated, “that is not specific intent.”
Creany asked if having the gun out was reckless to which Shaw replied, it is for a reckless endangerment charge but not a felony one aggravated assault, which would apply to an “attempted homicide that failed.”
Nedza brought the argument back to the error of law issue stating being shot in the face causes serious bodily injury.
She argued that sending only one of the aggravated assault charges on for further disposition was inconsistent with the charges at a preliminary hearing level.
In the end, Creany agreed with Nedza and granted the motion. After a new district judge is assigned to the case, a preliminary hearing will be scheduled.
The second affidavit with the re-filed charges includes additional information on the victim’s suffering.
The injuries required surgery “to close his open wounds and stabilize his broken jaws,” which could not be completed for days, the criminal complaint states. During this time, he was unable to drink or eat.
After that, his jaw was wired shut for five weeks while he was able to only eat soft foods.
As of April 26, he could still not open his jaw any further than one inch and to correct his condition, he may need to have additional surgery, according to the report.
He is also suffering from vision and balance issues.
For the full story on the original preliminary hearing, click here.