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Assault charges may become homicide charges

A case that began with an unusual arrest and resulted in aggravated assault charges against a Scranton man may ultimately become a murder case. The final charges may not be known for several weeks because they will depend upon the outcome of a lengthy medical inquiry by the Lackawanna County coroner.

Police responded to reports of an assault at the Hotel Luzerne and found a man sitting in a chair in the hallway. No other persons were seen, but the police returned in about 10 minutes and found the man slumped in the chair and sweating profusely. Medical personnel took him to Geisinger Community Medical Center, where he was found to have inter-cranial bleeding. He died at 11:00 a.m. the next day.

Upon learning that the man had died, detectives reviewed hallway CCTV tapes from the hotel. The tapes showed three men standing in the doorway of one of the hotel rooms. The decedent was seen to be violently pushed or shoved out of the room. He landed on his back and was knocked unconscious. A witness told police that the arrested man had hit the decedent in head during an argument about payment for marijuana. When they interviewed the accused, police noticed bruises and swollen knuckles on his right hand. The man was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person. The coroner said that final charges must await an examination of the decedent's neural tissue, an inquiry that could take several weeks.

As in many cases, the facts here seem overwhelming against the accused, but he is still entitled to the constitutional presumption that he is innocent until he is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Anyone charged with a violent crime can benefit from consulting an experienced criminal defense attorney. Such a consultation can provide a helpful analysis of the facts of the case, an enumeration of potential defense strategies and an evaluation of the likelihood of obtaining a favorable plea agreement or an outright acquittal.

Source: Scranton Times-Tribune, "Scranton man charged after neighbor dies hours after assault," Joseph Kohut, Dec. 4, 2015

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