A Norristown man accused by a federal grand jury in February of assaulting a mailman last September and then robbing him pleaded not guilty to the charges yesterday in federal magistrate court.

U.S. Magistrate Henry S. Perkin ordered Brandon Byrd, 23, held for trial. However, the magistrate agreed to permit U.S. marshals to return Byrd to state custody for a hearing on April 27 in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court to consider a probation violation.

Byrd was on probation in connection with a state conviction on April 1, 2008 - for intentionally possessing a controlled substance by a person not registered - at the time he allegedly assaulted and robbed the letter carrier, court papers said.

The carrier was beaten unconscious and evacuated by helicopter to a local hospital, court papers said.

The victim, identified only by the initials M.W. in the charging papers, was on the porch of a home on Haws Avenue in Norristown delivering mail when Byrd attacked him, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Shapiro said in a court filing.

Byrd then fled with the victim's wallet, which contained some cash, a credit card and some identification, court papers said.

Although the carrier does not remember the event, an eyewitness came face-to-face with Byrd moments later and provided a description of Byrd to police, according to court papers.

A month later, another witness, an acquaintance of Byrd's, told postal inspectors that Byrd was responsible for the attack. Court papers said the witness told investigators he heard Byrd admit to the crime.

The eyewitness to the robbery picked Byrd out of a photo lineup as the man he saw at the time of the alleged assault and robbery of the carrier, court papers said.

Besides his 2008 conviction, Byrd was previously sentenced to four years' probation in October 2006 for manufacture/deliver/possess with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled subtance.

Probation on that conviction was revoked in August 2007 and Byrd was sentenced from 103 days to 23 months in the Montgomery County prison, court papers said.

If convicted of both federal charges, Byrd potentially faces 10 years in a federal prison under advisory sentencing guidelines. *