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Prosecutors may use drug sale in stabbing trial

July 15. 2013 11:42PM

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WILKES-BARRE — Prosecutors were allowed Monday to tell a Luzerne County jury about an alleged heroin sale by Armoni Johnson to Justin Barna.

That is as far as prosecutors can go.

Attorney Allyson Kacmarski said there is no direct evidence that the drug sale ever took place, and any connection to heroin may harm Johnson’s right to a fair trial.

Johnson, 26, of Wilkes-Barre, is facing a trial before Judge Fred Pierantoni III on allegations he stabbed Barna multiple times over a dispute about stashing heroin inside Barna’s apartment on Charter Drive in Wright Township on Aug. 7, 2011. A jury is expected to be selected today.

Barna underwent several surgeries at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center for stab wounds to his chest, abdomen, arms and legs. He survived.

Barna told police he bought four heroin packets for $80 from Johnson about a week before he was stabbed.

Wright Township police allege Johnson blamed Barna for stealing heroin and was upset that Barna would not allow him to keep his alleged heroin stash inside the Charter Drive apartment.

Assistant District Attorney Mamie Phillips said the heroin dispute between Johnson and Barna shows motive to the stabbing.

Kacmarski tried to keep Phillips from telling jurors anything about heroin because Johnson is not charged with any drug-related offenses.

“There is no evidence of any drug transaction,” Kacmarski told Pierantoni during a pre-trial hearing Monday.

Phillips conceded that Barna gave several statements to police, including the alleged heroin connection to Johnson.

“The victim gave two accounts of who stabbed him,” Phillips said. “Let the jury decide.”

Johnson withdrew his guilty plea to aggravated assault resulting in a trial. He is facing trial on charges of aggravated assault, burglary and criminal conspiracy.

Johnson was arrested at a house on South River Street in Wilkes-Barre on Aug. 22, 2011.

State police in Monroe County arrested a co-defendant in the case, Terrill Shakur Mattox, 29, of Wilkes-Barre, on Oct. 31, 2011, for his alleged role in the stabbing. Mattox is scheduled to appear in court on July 23 on similar charges.

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