Medlen guilty on all counts, including attempted homicide

September 19, 2013
Tracy Medlen of North Franklin Township, shown being led to his preliminary hearing in January, was convicted Thursday in the stabbing of Brandon Sarasnick. - Observer-Reporter Order a Print

The defendant told members of a Washington County jury this week they could convict him of aggravated assault or recklessly endangering another person when he stabbed a man outside a Lincoln Terrace apartment last December, but that they should acquit him of an attempted homicide charge because he never intended to murder the victim, to whom he apologized from the witness stand.

The jury of five men and seven women, after several hours of deliberation Thursday, did not heed his request.

Tracy Medlen, 21, who last lived on Roosevelt Street, North Franklin Township, was returned in chains to the county jail, where he had been incarcerated since January. Judge John DiSalle revoked Medlen’s $25,000 bond.

Rose A. Semple, Medlen’s assistant public defender, said she would not comment on his testimony, adding she would have to review the trial before discussing possible points for an appeal.

The victim, Brandon Sarasnick, 25, said of Medlen’s apology, “I was surprised. I didn’t think he would apologize. I don’t hold a grudge. I guess you could say I accept it. He could’ve been a little bit more remorseful, I suppose.”

Hospitalizations, including two operations to save his life, have cost Sarasnick, who suffered a punctured lung and heavy blood loss, $174,000 plus $6,000 in lost wages.

“Hopefully, some sort of restitution will be paid towards it,” Sarasnick said after the jury announced its verdict in the criminal case.

Sarasnick and his step-mother, Ruthie, embraced outside the courtroom. “Stand by your son,” she said after accompanying him daily to the four-day trial.

On Wednesday, Medlen told the jurors why he believed it was important that he waive his right to remain silent and testify.

“I want to be able to give the victim closure and myself closure,” the defendant said.

Medlen described himself Dec. 28, 2012, as being distraught over the death of his biological mother in Pittsburgh and being unable to find a way to travel there so family members could console each other. Instead, he said, “I just wanted to try to forget,” and drowned his sorrow with friends at a Washington bar, consuming shots of liquor in memory of his late mother.

After the bar closed during the early-morning hours of Dec. 29, people gathered at the Lincoln Terrace apartment and Medlen and Brandon Sarasnick met in the kitchen.

“I was very drunk,” Medlen testified, recalling that the two exchanged the question, “Who the hell are you?”

He said he suspected Sarasnick was “messing around” with Shelissa Chandler, 30, of Washington, with whom Medlen had a relationship, and grabbed a knife from a drawer.

The tenant asked her visitors to clear out. Medlen said he left through the front door while Sarasnick exited through the back door with Chandler. The men walked toward each other on the side of the building.

“Being drunk, I was stupid,” Medlen said. “I stabbed him. I didn’t know what I was doing. It seemed so surreal to me.”

Sarasnick suffered a near-fatal chest wound.

Chandler, who is charged with hindering apprehension of a suspect, drove Medlen away from Lincoln Terrace. She has a court date scheduled for next month. When contacted by city police, Chandler denied giving a ride to Medlen, who initially was identified as Trey Pound.

Semple asked Medlen if he could have killed Sarasnick if he had wanted to. “Yes, ma’am,” he replied.

Under cross-examination by Assistant District Attorney Michael Fagella, Medlen, at times wiping tears, argued with him, even after admonished twice by Judge John DiSalle to answer Fagella’s questions and to not make speeches from the witness stand.

Fagella asked Medlen about tapes made of his phone conversations from the county jail, where he has been an inmate since January.

“I was offered 10 to 20 years,” Medlen replied. “I didn’t want nothing the Commonwealth had to offer. This man was innocent. We exchanged words.” Had he taken a plea bargain, Medlen said, “I would’ve never got the chance to tell this man I’m sorry.”

The judge asked Medlen what became of the weapon. Medlen, who called it “a flimsy steak knife,” said he tossed it onto East Maiden Street.

The stabbing occurred when Medlen was on parole. In that case, he pleaded no contest to robbery and conspiracy to commit aggravated assault and was sentenced to 18 to 36 months in jail, followed by five years of state probation. Medlen on Wednesday told the jurors he did not commit that crime.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Fagella said he will be contacting the state Board of Probation and Parole about Medlen’s latest conviction.

“He’s subject to review,” Fagella said. Any additional incarceration for Medlen “is going to be up to the board,” Fagella said.

DiSalle ordered that the Washington County adult probation department conduct a pre-sentence investigation into Medlen’s background. The judge set no sentencing date, but said that proceeding will take place within 90 days.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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