Man sentenced in case related to Clarion overdose death

A Ridgway man who had pleaded guilty to a charge of drug delivery resulting in death was sentenced Monday in a special session of Clarion County court.

The sentencing took place remotely due to the COVID judicial emergency in the county.

William A. Fourness, Jr., of Ridgway, an inmate at the SCI Forest state prison, was sentenced by Clarion County President Judge Sara Seidle-Patton to serve six to 12 years in a state prison. He will receive credit for 407 days he has already served.

The sentence followed statements by District Attorney Drew Welsh and Public Defender Jacob Roberts, who both argued for a mitigated sentence for Fourness.

Fourness was one of six people charged in a multi-county drug investigation into the November 2018 overdose death of William Stout of Clarion, who was found dead at his East Eighth Avenue residence. The cause of death was fentanyl toxicity.

Also arrested in the drug sweep were Aaron E. Johnson of Monroeville, Spencer Rudolph, Kasey M. Fourness of Ridgway, Joseph D. Hoffman of St. Marys and Ryan Gleixner of St. Marys.

Johnson and Rudolph were convicted of drug delivery resulting in death in a jury trial earlier this year.

Fourness was a key witness in that trial, and Welsh said he had discussions with Fourness regarding his testimony. Welsh said there was never an agreement with Fourness, but he said he would consider advocating for a lesser sentence depending on the nature of the testimony.

“I trusted him and he trusted me,” said Welsh. “He was honest about his involvement in this case. I want to live up to my word.”

Roberts said Fourness provided “exceptional, quality testimony” about the drug operation during the trial.

Roberts also said Fourness had become a father while he has been incarcerated and that he does not want to lose his parental rights. He noted Fourness was on parole when he was arrested and will face an additional sentence from the state for violating his parole.

Roberts read a letter Fourness had written to Seidle-Patton asking for mercy. In the letter, Fourness said he was a first time father and would like to see his son grow up.

Seidle-Patton, who was the judge in the Johnson and Rudolph trial, said she believed his testimony was a key element in the conviction of the two men. “He did a good job of educating the jury on drug sales,” she said.

“You were a significant link in that drug chain and I cannot downplay that,” Seidle-Patton said. “I do not want to minimize the effect of your actions on the western Pennsylvania community.”

Seidle-Patton said there were mitigating factors In Fourness’ case and reduced his sentence from the mandatory minimum of 84 months.

Johnson was sentenced to serve a maximum of 72 years in state prison and Rudolph a maximum of 27 years in state prison.

Hoffman was sentenced to serve from 12 to 36 months in state prison on a charge of delivery of a controlled substance.

Gleixner entered a guilty plea to a charge of manufacture, delivery or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver, and he is awaiting sentencing.

Kasey Fourness has requested a jury trial.