Aug 28, 2023

Jury acquits in police chase

Oct 6, 2023

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A Blair County jury acquitted a Tipton man Thursday of two felony charges after the man denied being the motorcyclist who led a Tyrone police officer on a high-speed chase two years ago.

Michael Lee McClellan, 32, cleared of fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer and theft by receiving stolen property, shook hands with Chief Public Defender Russ Montgomery after the jury’s verdicts were announced.

Deliberations lasted about a half hour.

“No I didn’t flee from officer (Otto) Barton on that motorcycle,” McClellan said when he testified on his own behalf. While McClellan admitted that one of his old license plates was on the motorcycle Barton chased, McClellan said other people had access to his old license plates used for garage decorations.

McClellan’s longtime girlfriend, Faith Carper, and his mother, Ruth McClellan, who testified on McClellan’s behalf, told the jury that at the time of the chase — in the early afternoon of Oct. 9, 2021 — McClellan was on his way to Georgia to see his seriously ill father.

Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Thomas asked the jury in his closing argument to consider the motivation behind the women’s testimony and to instead accept the officer’s testimony.

“He got a good side profile of the defendant’s face,” Thomas said in his closing where he referenced Barton’s testimony and effort to identify the motorcyclist.

Barton told the jury that after he stopped chasing the motorcyclist for safety reasons, he searched for McClellan’s driver’s license photo and used it to confirm that McClellan was the person he was following.

While the dash camera in Barton’s cruiser captured a seven-minute video of the pursuit through Tyrone — where the motorcyclist blew through two stop signs and went the wrong way on a one-way street — the video showed only the back of the fleeing motorcyclist, as played in court for the jury.

The day after the chase, Barton said he learned that the motorcycle he followed had been found in a wooded area below the Tipton reservoir. Because it was reported stolen on Sept. 25, 2021, from a Huntingdon County property, Barton charged McClellan with theft.

When McClellan’s longtime girlfriend testified, she said she told Tyrone police that they had the wrong guy.

In court Thursday, Carper identified another person who she said could have been driving the motorcycle because he has the same build as McClellen and had access to McClellan’s old license plates.

Barton, however, told the jury that when police spoke with Carper after the chase, she didn’t say anything at that time about another driver.

Judge Wade A. Kagarise, who presided over the trial, said that in light of the jury’s verdicts, he would dismiss 16 additional summary offenses filed against McClellan. They included 10 counts of reckless driving and single counts of driving with a suspended license, driving without a license, driving without insurance, driving an unregistered vehicle, driving with a suspended vehicle registration and a license plate violation.

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

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

CLEARFIELD — Although the last remaining Clearfield County criminal cases filed as a result of the efforts of the ...

A Dallas-based firm will put together a formal proposal for management of parking in downtown Altoona, following an ...

Democratic women will meetThe Blair County Federation of Democratic Women will hold its monthly meeting at 6 ...

I'm interested in (please check all that apply) Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *