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Watkins Sentenced to a Maximum of Ten Years for Gun Charge, Witness Intimidation

Friday, January 14, 2022 @ 12:01 AM

Posted by Leon Aristeguieta

GavelCLARION CO., Pa. (EYT) – A Clarion man convicted at a jury trial for illegal possession of a firearm was sentenced on Wednesday to a maximum of ten years in state prison.

In Clarion County Court of Common Pleas on Wednesday, January 12, 35-year-old Nathan Gene Watkins was found guilty of Possession of a Firearm Prohibited, a second-degree felony, during a one day trial in October for pointing a gun at another man in New Bethlehem.

He was also charged with one count of Intimidate Witness/Victim – Withhold Testimony, a second-degree felony, during the lead up to his trial for making threats against a witness in his trial. He pleaded guilty to this offense on January 12.

Watkins received a minimum of 60 months to a maximum of 120 months for each offense, to run concurrently. He has credit for 406 days served.

The following aggregate charges from both cases were dropped:

– Endangering Welfare of Children – Parent/Guardian/Other Commits Offense (4 counts), Felony 2
– Firearms Not To Be Carried W/O License, Felony 3
– Terroristic Threats W/ Int To Terrorize Another (3 counts), Misdemeanor 1
– Simple Assault (2 counts), Misdemeanor 1
– Reckless Driving, Summary

Watkins was sent to SCI Smithfield for a diagnostic review and classification.

“The gravity of these charges can’t be understated,” said Assistant District Attorney Erich Spessard during sentencing. Clarion County President Judge Sara J. Seidle-Patton agreed with the sentiment.

“Something I find notable in this situation is that this put individuals in the public in concern for their safety,” Judge Seidle-Patton said. “I see no indication for leniency in this case.”

The charges stem from a November 2020 incident in New Bethlehem and an October 2021 phone call from Clarion County Jail.

Details of the New Bethlehem incident:

According to a criminal complaint, the New Bethlehem Borough Police were dispatched to the area of Liberty Street and Broad Street on November 20, 2020, for a report of an individual having a gun pulled on them.

The complaint states two known male victims, a father and son, reported that they were getting gas at a gas station in New Bethlehem when the incident began. They reported a man, who was accompanied by a second man and a woman in a black Yukon, yelled: “Do you have a staring problem?”

The victims reported that when they left, the driver of the Yukon followed them closely, so they stopped, and the son got out of the vehicle and asked: “what the (expletive) is the problem?”

The victims told police the driver of the Yukon then got out, took out a pistol that was on his side, cocked it, and pointed it at them. The younger victim told the man to put the gun away, and they could “settle this like men,” and the driver reportedly said: “meet me up on the hill,” according to the complaint.

The victims then got back in their vehicle, obtained the license plate number from the Yukon, and called 9-1-1, while the driver of the Yukon drove away.

Police were able to obtain video footage of the incident, which showed the man from the Yukon with what appeared to be a handgun with a silver handgrip on his hip, the complaint indicates.

Police then followed up with the owner of the vehicle, a known Mayport man. When they made contact with the man, he was accompanied by a known woman and another man who matched the victims’ description and the man in the video footage, later identified as Nathan Watkins.

The vehicle owner reported he was in his Yukon with the known woman, four children, and Watkins at the gas station in question when someone in a blue Jeep “said something to him,” and he drove down behind the Jeep “to see what they wanted.” He reported the driver of the Jeep started backing up and nearly hit his vehicle, and then two males got out of the Jeep as he was trying to get his window down to see what they wanted. He reported the males were coming “aggressively” toward his vehicle, where the four children were located. He told police that “he could only go by what he was told and heard” as to why there would be a problem with the men in the Jeep, according to the complaint.

When asked if Watkins drives his vehicle, he said he does, and when asked about what guns he owns, he reported he has two, the complaint notes.

The known woman was then interviewed and reported that the two men had come around the gas station and “stared us down,” referring to herself, the known man, and Watkins. She also reported the driver of the Jeep nearly hit their Yukon, and the men then got out of the Jeep and came toward the Yukon. She said Watkins then got out “to see what the problem was.” She also noted that Watkins had her gun on his side when he got out of the vehicle. She told police she did not know what was said, but the men then got in their vehicle and left, according to the complaint.

Police contacted Watkins’ probation officer from the PA Board of Probation and Parole out of Franklin and advised him of the incident. The parole officer then provided police with GPS coordinates from Watkins’ ankle bracelet on the day of the incident, which showed that Watkins was at the location in question at the time of the incident. Further investigation also determined that Watkins is a felon who is not to possess a firearm, the complaint states.

On November 25, New Bethlehem Borough Police were granted a search warrant to take possession of the firearms registered to the known man and known woman.

The woman told police, “I know which gun it is, it’s the silver one,” and the couple retrieved the gun, a black Sig Sauer P938 handgun with silver handgrip plates, from a safe and turned it over to police. It was secured as evidence. Police also took possession of a Black Hellcat 9mm, the complaint states.

When asked how Watkins had access to it, the woman reported that he “grabs it from the top of the fridge,” the complaint indicates.

Watkins was arraigned in front of Judge Miller at 10:15 a.m. on Wednesday, December 2.

Details of the witness intimidation incident:

According to a criminal complaint, on Wednesday, October 6, Detective Wright, of the Clarion County District Attorney’s Office, was assigned to investigate a report of intimidation of a witness in a case.

The complaint indicates a known female victim had contacted the District Attorney’s office to report that Nathan Gene Watkins had made threats to another known woman (her sister), specifically threatening harm to her brother and “everyone she loves” if she testified at his criminal trial scheduled for Monday, October 11, 2021 in the Clarion County Court of Common Pleas.

District Attorney Drew Welsh advised that these threats were made from a jail phone call placed by Watkins to the known woman on Tuesday, October 5, and provided investigators with a copy of the phone call made by Watkins from the jail, the complaint notes.

According to the complaint, during the call, Watkins advised the woman that if he didn’t get out (of jail) on Monday, the victim’s brother “ain’t getting out.” The woman asked Watkins which brother, and Watkins reportedly responded “whatever brother she got in prison,” and then reiterated “he ain’t getting out either.”

He also reportedly said “Don’t play with me. She gets up there and lies one time say I did something I didn’t do, dude’s getting beat,” the complaint continues.

The woman told Watkins the man he was talking about was her brother, too, and Watkins reportedly said “I gotta make an example, bro,” and told the woman he planned on going after everyone the victim cares about. Watkins also reportedly said he would send word with a man that the victim’s brother can’t be touched and stated “literally bros were waiting til Monday to send the word after they left the courthouse.” He also told the woman the victim’s “whole world is getting crushed,” according to the complaint.

Police then spoke to the victim who had received the call.

According to the complaint, the victim stated her sister called her earlier that morning and told her about the threats Watkins made and said she was frightened of what Watkins will do if the victim testifies. The victim told police Watkins had also previously relayed other messages to her through her sister. She indicated that a couple of weeks prior, Watkins had said if she testified, she would be going to jail.

Watkins was arraigned in front of Magisterial District Judge Jarah Lee Heeter at 9:05 a.m. on Friday, October 8

Court documents indicate Watkins has a criminal history in the local area dating back to 2004 with convictions ranging from burglary and theft to criminal mischief and escape.

RELATED:

Watkins Found Guilty of Illegal Possession of a Firearm; New Charges Filed for Reported Witness Intimidation

Police: Clarion Man Behind Bars for Threatening Men With Gun

Man Found Not Guilty in Porter Twp. Rape; Sent to State Prison for Theft, Escape


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