HOLLIDAYSBURG — Some teenagers shed tears while others showed little emotion Thursday in Blair County Court, where they spoke about interacting with a Tyrone man accused of supplying them with marijuana while he was dealing with sexual acts and Nude photos asked.
Eleven teenagers – 10 women and one man – testified about their individual encounters with Paul Robert Holpit, 24, of Tyrone, who remains in county jail and is charged with multiple offenses including solicitation of involuntary deviant sexual intercourse, solicitation of child pornography and attempted sex exploitation of children, unlawful contact with minors, child sex trafficking, possession for childbirth and related offences.
Magisterial District Judge Fred B. Miller, listening to testimony Thursday during a preliminary hearing convened at the courthouse, found sufficient evidence for 88 alleged felonies, which will be referred to the district court for further review.
Lead Public Defender Russ Montgomery, who repeatedly asked the juvenile Witnesses whether they had contacted Holpit or whether Holpit had contacted them, said after the court hearing that he did not know whether the question would enter into his client’s defense.
“I’m not sure at the moment” said Montgomery. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”
District Attorney Pete Weeks and First Assistant District Attorney Nichole Smith asked the teenagers to testify in support of the charges brought by the Tyrone Police Department, represented in court by Detective Chad Weaver.
Weaver testified during the hearing about a search of Holpit’s West 14th Street apartment during which officers seized marijuana and collected computer equipment containing evidence of sexually explicit photos and videos.
The teenage Witnesses, who live in or near Tyrone, said they reached out to Holpit — via Snapchat or through a friend — after learning Holpit was selling marijuana.
Most juvenile witnesses said they first met Holpit in the summer of 2021 and into early 2022. They spoke of communicating with him online and then meeting him at various locations in Tyrone, initially paying $10 to $20 for 1 to 2 grams of marijuana before learning how to obtain additional amounts for free.
The teenage witnesses also accused Holpit of sending nude pictures of herself, asking her to send nude pictures of herself and encouraging her to engage in sexual activity.
The male teenage witness said he regularly purchased marijuana from Holpit and knew that Holpit regularly solicited a teenage girl to perform sexual acts in exchange for marijuana.
One of the teenage witnesses, now 15, said she was 13 when she bought marijuana from Holpit, who asked her to engage in a sex act.
“I told him I was 13 and he said he preferred younger girls.” she testified.
The witness said she did not have sex with Holpit and never sent him nude photos of herself.
“He said if I do the things he asks I could have weed for free.” she testified.
A 17-year-old witness said she sent naked photos of herself to Holpit – because he asked her to. She also said she had oral sex with Holpit in his vehicle in October 2021 – and that he gave her marijuana.
“He told me he was 18” said the witness during cross-examination, before leaving the witness stand in tears.
Another witness, now 17, said Holpit offered her more marijuana if she would engage in a sex act with him. She said it happened in his car and she was given 3.5 grams of marijuana for it.
Another witness, now 16, said she was 15 when she accompanied a friend who met Holpit near Tyrone Moose Lodge to buy marijuana.
The witness said that at a meeting, Holpit offered her alcohol, marijuana and money if she would perform oral sex with him. The witness said she responded by telling Holpit she was 15 years old.
“He said he didn’t care. Who needs to know?” she testified, remembering Holpit’s reply.
A witness, now 16, testified that Holpit repeatedly asked her for nude photos. She said she sent him a photo that didn’t show her face.
She said Holpit gave her 4 grams of marijuana afterwards and inquiries continued.
“He kept asking me for more nude photos.” said the teenager.
A witness, almost 18, admitted to sending photos of herself to Holpit, who threatened to harm herself if she didn’t.
“He used to text me about nude photos,” She said.
Smith also pointed out to Miller that all of the victims were minors at the time of the alleged crimes.
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens can be reached at 814-946-7456.