RIDGWAY – A family who has awaited justice for nearly five years did not receive it Thursday afternoon in Elk County Court.
Francis Anthony Milliard, 58, Ridgway, was scheduled to be sentenced yesterday for the June 2011 beating of Todd Asti. All was proceeding as planned until Milliard rose to speak, saying, “First of all, I’m sorry about Todd Asti.”
A graying and frazzled Milliard, clad in an orange jumpsuit emblazoned with the words “Jefferson County Jail,” went on to say that earlier in the day he was pulled from his jail cell and told he was being taken to Ridgway. Milliard claims until then he had never been notified of Thursday’s sentencing.
“I would sure like to have my family and friends here,” Milliard told President Judge Richard Masson.
Milliard’s comments came after Sandy Asti, Todd’s mother, took the stand to provide her victim impact statement, explaining to the court – but more pointedly to Milliard – about how her son was confined to a wheelchair for life and has no privacy as he needs help for even the most basic of human functions.
“You ruled Ridgway for so many years and hurt so many people,” said the elderly and impassioned woman as she stood approximately 20 feet from Milliard. “You beat Todd within an inch of his life. His father had to find him and he died with that memory.”
In February, after approximately one hour of deliberation, an Elk County jury returned a guilty verdict to Milliard on charges of criminal attempt at murder, two counts of aggravated assault, and recklessly endangering another person.
During the four-day trial, a parade of witnesses gave the jury snapshots of details which painted the complete picture of Milliard going to Asti’s Elk Avenue home sometime during the night of June 24, 2011, to collect a $200 drug debt. The visit ended in Milliard striking Asti repeatedly in the head with a wooden club.
Asti was found by his father around noon the next day.
The only witness to the crime, aside from Asti himself, is Milliard’s son Anthony, who was labeled a “hostile witness” by the court during his testimony.
See Milliard, Page A9
Judge Masson granted a continuance after Milliard’s claims, saying the sentencing would likely be scheduled in the coming weeks. He added that a letter of notification will be sent directly to Milliard at the prison.
The judge also continued a hearing on motions Milliard filed recently to change the venue of several unresolved criminal cases against him that remain open in Elk County, stemming from drug, arson, and firearms charges.
Addressing nearly one dozen members of Asti’s family who had attended court Thursday for the sentencing, Masson said “I understand the importance of resolution and the importance of closure. Unfortunately, you will not get that today.”
“I have to make sure Mr. Milliard’s due process rights are protected.”