Halfway house escape earns E. Nottingham man jail time

By MICHAEL P. RELLAHAN

mrellahan@dailylocal.com

WEST CHESTER — The game of hide-and-seek that an Oxford area man who had escaped from a halfway house for state prisoners wound up costing the man an extra stint behind bars.

On Thursday, Ronald Scott Dawson appeared before Common Pleas Judge Patrick Carmody to plea guilty to charges of flight to avoid apprehension, stemming from a November incident in which he left the Gaudenzia halfway house in Philadelphia without permission.

According to Deputy District Attorney Michelle Frei, who prosecuted the case against Dawson — a serial drunk driver with five convictions for the crime on his record — anyone who leaves a halfway house facility while serving a state sentence, as Dawson, was, is considered an escapee.

But had Dawson not tried to hide from authorities that came looking for him, Frei said he likely would not have faced additional charges of flight, and simply would have been returned to the Philadelphia facility for disciplinary action.

But because he would not give himself up easily, Dawson, as part of a plea agreement in the case, was sentenced to nine to 16 months in prison. Added to that was an additional term of six to 35 months in prison for violating two of his DUI probations, Dawson will end up with an extra term of 15 to 35 months behind state prison bars for his gamble.

Asked by Common Pleas Court Judge Patrick Carmody whether he agreed that he had escaped from the prison halfway house, Dawson demurred.

“I was on unauthorized absence from the halfway house,” he told the judge during the plea hearing. “That’s all I am agreeing to.”

According to facts recited by Frei and court documents in the case, state police troopers went looking for Dawson around 8 a.m. on Nov. 26, a few days after Thanksgiving. They had a warrant for his arrest on escape charges, and went straight to the home of his girlfriend, Patricia Sprout, the last address he had signed out to from the Philadelphia facility.

When troopers Nathan Aukamp, Todd McCurdy, and Ben Schwedes arrived at the East Nottingham mobile home where Sprout lived, the knocked on the front door, only to hear movement from inside the home.

Eventually, Sprout let them in but denied seeing Dawson. The troopers, however, searched the mobile home and found Dawson hiding deep in a narrow closet in the bedroom. He was attempting to conceal himself amid the clothes hanging in the closet, the troopers stated.

When told to come out of the closet, Dawson stayed put, not turning around or showing his hands. The troopers said they thus were forced to pull him out of the closet, and place him on the ground to handcuff him. He ignored their commands to show his hands, and resisted arrest, the police affidavit states.

Although Dawson claimed to be paralyzed, the troopers noted that an unusual amount of dexterity would have been need for him to conceal himself in the closet.

Frei said that Dawson, 39, was serving a state prison sentence at the time of his escape for DUI, his fifth offense.

In Chester County, he had been arrested in October 2006 for drunk driving after he was chased by a Maryland state police officer into East Nottingham from Rising Sun, Md. He had earlier been charged with DUI stemming from a police stop in September in Elk.

Sprout was charged with hindering apprehension and sentenced to one-year probation after pleading guilty in April.