City man receives long sentence for drug trafficking | News, Sports, Jobs

HOLLIDAYSBURG — An Altoona man convicted in December of offenses related to dealing methamphetamine for heroin in a motel room in Logan Township was sentenced to 14 to 28 years in prison.

Blair County Judge Wade Kagarise on Friday handed a lengthy sentence to Shannon Terrell Bennett, a 50-year-old man who claimed his innocence during his jury trial and again on Friday.

“It’s guilt by association” Bennett told Kagarise while asking for clemency and talking about continuing efforts to get better while dealing with depression-related drug addiction.

“My drug use has always been a stimulus to deal with my depression,” he said.

Trial testimony indicated that Logan Township police on September 10, 2020 arrested Bennett and Cynthia Wissinger in a motel room at the Rodeway Inn, where they found 48 packets of heroin wax inside a bottle of vitamin supplement, a digital scale between the bed mattress and box springs, a small amount of methamphetamine and $1,567 in cash.

Before searching the motel room, police arrested a motorcyclist on Orchard Drive who had 18 packets of heroin wax in a pocket. The motorcyclist, Dennis Pletcher, testified at trial, telling police he obtained the heroin from Bennett in the motel room as part of a methamphetamine swap.

In court on Friday, District Attorney Pete Weeks outlined Bennett’s criminal history beginning with a burglary charge in 1982 – when Bennett was 11 or 12 years old. His criminal activity continued that decade and then into the 1990s and 2000s, with additional convictions for burglary, robbery, assault, strangulation, and drug offenses.

“He is a repeat offender, several times”, Weeks said. “His record includes at least six separate drug trafficking crimes, in addition to those he is here for today.”

Defense attorney Richard Corcoran admitted that Bennett’s criminal history was “important,” then he suggested a mitigated sentence so Bennett could access help for his drug addiction and mental health issues.

Weeks asked Kagarise to consider imposing sentences at the top of standard state guidelines. Kagarise did so when he sentenced seven to 14 years each for criminal conspiracy to commit possession with intent to deliver and delivery of a controlled substance. Then the judge exercised his option to order Bennett to serve those sentences consecutively, adding up to 14 to 28 years.

The judge also handed down a sentence of two to four years for criminal use of a communication device, to be served at the same time as the 14 to 28-year-olds.

Corcoran, who has spoken of his interest in an appeal following Bennett’s sentencing, said Friday the appeal would be filed.

The sentence was “very severe” Corcoran said, “especially when the plea offer was for a year.”

Weeks acknowledged that during pretrial proceedings, Bennett was offered less jail time in exchange for guilty pleas. At that time, Weeks said there were questions about taking the case to trial, but those questions were resolved as the case moved closer to trial.

When Bennett asked for clemency, he said he was now an ordained minister.

Weeks says Bennett “has received leniency in the past” over a criminal history that spans almost 40 years.

“I hope he will change his ways” Weeks said.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 814-946-7456.

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