Mr. Cristina will be the first to be resentenced since both the US Supreme Court and the PA Supreme Court held the sentencing scheme unconsittutional.

Interrogating Juveniles Without Recordings: Pressure Turns Friends Into Confessors

December 9, 2009 By admin Leave a Comment

By Cynthia Levy
The Innocence Institute of Point Park University

In December 1975 when Frank Slazinski returned to his Lawrenceville home after a lengthy hospital stay caused by a beating he took from robbers, they struck again.

This time, the 82-year-old retiree was bludgeoned with a blackjack before his assailants took $15 and a television set, which was never recovered.

He managed to tell his daughter two kids were responsible, and flashed cops two fingers before he died four days later.

As weeks became months with no arrests, three Butler Street youths were among a handful of suspects. James “Red” Phillips, 19, a neighborhood bully, William Pirozzi, 17, whose mother worked at the restaurant where Mr. Slazinski regularly ate and knew he just got a new television, and Jeffrey Cristina, 17, the new kid on the block with a clean record.

By the time detectives filed charges against all three, they’d amassed a total of six confessions – some recorded, some not — riddled with contradictions and lies. Charges were dropped before trial against Mr. Phillips and Mr. Pirozzi entered a guilty plea for a three-year prison hitch.

Mr. Cristina, who maintained his innocence, was the only one to go to trial because his father would not let him plead guilty. Despite another series of confusing recantations, he was convicted as an adult and sentenced to life behind bars.

He remains confounded by his conviction and devastated his claims of innocence have escaped examination by appeals courts.

Killing for Nothing

The first to be arrested was Mr. Phillips. He was charged, passed a polygraph test – which is inadmissible in court—and was released seven days later after charges were dropped.

Mr. Cristina was brought in next. Officers taped the interview and his father was present. He said Mr. Phillips kidnapped him and Mr. Slazinski in a car and beat him during a 45 minute siege.

Court documents suggest Mr. Pirozzi partially corroborated his story, saying he tried to help Mr. Cristina get out of a car driven by Mr. Phillips.

The following day Mr. Cristina was questioned again, without his parents.

He abandoned the kidnapping story; instead stating on a tape machine he says was repeatedly turned on and off, he was standing outside the victim’s apartment with Mr. Pirozzi when Mr. Phillips told them he was going in to “collect some money.”

When he heard a crack inside the apartment, Mr. Cristina told police he saw Mr. Phillips beating the old man with a blackjack. Mr. Cristina led police to the hidden blackjack saying Mr. Pirozzi asked him to hide it after the beating.

Then Mr. Pirozzi changed his story too. He said Mr. Phillips kicked in the apartment door and went in, but wasn’t sure if Mr. Cristina did too.

The next day, both added another twist in their third statements to police, claiming they served as lookouts, but fled when the beating began. Both were charged with murder based on their admissions.

In the Shuman Detention Center, awaiting trial, Mr. Pirozzi offered police yet another version where he was clearly being led by investigators. This time he left Mr. Phillips out of the murder plot, and said Mr. Cristina was the killer.

Trial of Lies

Despite all of his previous statements, Mr. Pirozzi implicated Mr. Cristina in the killing. Prosecutors also used Mr. Cristina’s final statement in which he admitted being a look-out as a confession.

While Mr. Pirozzi pointed the finger at Mr. Cristina, he couldn’t keep straight how much money was taken and if Mr. Cristina possessed a blackjack.

After being drilled about the inconsistencies and replying “I don’t know” to more than a dozen questions asked by both attorneys, Mr. Pirozzi was asked which story was true.

“None of it is,” he said, sobbing.

After a break to regain his composure, he again implicated Mr. Cristina in the killing and insisted after all the lies, he was now being truthful.

Mr. Cristina took the stand and said after telling numerous lies, he finally wanted “to tell the truth.” Now he admitted attempting to rob Mr. Slazinski with Mr. Pirozzi, but said both fled after the elderly man beat Mr. Pirozzi with a cane.

Fifteen minutes later, he testified, he gave Mr. Pirozzi the black jack which was used in the killing. Days later, he said Mr. Pirozzi told him he and Mr. Phillips killed the elderly gentleman.

Mr. Cristina was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

In June, Mr. Pirozzi told Innocence Institute reporters he faced such pressure during interrogation he’s blocked out the memories and wishes to be hypnotized to figure out what really happened.

Mr. Pirozzi did remember certain elements of the case when specific instances were broached, even though he said he was drunk and on medication during his initial interrogation.

Today, he doesn’t remember lying under oath (and admitting it), nor does he recall penning a letter to Mr. Cristina’s brother while awaiting trial where he wrote that since he was in Carrick with his girlfriend the night of the murder, that he, “don’t know if Jeff was there that night.”

“I was brainwashed,” said Pirozzi about his lack of recall during what he said were “long, long hours” of questioning.

Post-trial Discoveries

As Mr. Cristina was shipped to prison, information about Mr. Phillips and Mr. Pirozzi began to emerge.

A woman told police Mr. Pirozzi implicated Mr. Cristina because Mr. Phillips threatened to kill a family member. She also said Mr. Phillips threatened her after she visited Mr. Pirozzi in jail.

During his pre-sentence investigation, Mr. Pirozzi confessed again to an Allegheny County psychologist, this time his story matched much of what Mr. Cristina said on the witness stand.

Mr. Pirozzi told the psychologist he borrowed the blackjack from Mr. Cristina, to commit the robbery with Mr. Phillips. He told the counselor Mr. Cristina declined participation. He said after the robbery, they left Mr. Slazinski unharmed, but Mr. Phillips returned and beat him to death.

Afterwards, Mr. Pirozzi told the psychologist Mr. Phillips threatened him and told him to blame the crime on Mr. Cristina.

In a later letter to Mr. Cristina’s sentencing judge, the psychologist, Jay Greenfield, said the case “left a great weight on him” and he worried Mr. Cristina got a “bum rap.”

Dr. Greenfield also revealed in pre-sentencing reports both teenagers repeatedly failed lie detector tests stating, they “blew the machine up.”

In October 1989 after 13 years in prison, Mr. Cristina filed for and was unanimously approved for commutation by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Board of Pardons; but former Gov. Tom Ridge denied it.

Mr. Cristina’s appeals are exhausted and without extraordinary judicial relief, he will never be freed.

“I was brought up believing that the justice system was correct and true, so during my trial and everything leading up to it, I always thought everything would work out and that they would find the truth. That didn’t happen,” said Mr. Cristina.


Doctor Not Guilty of Prescribing Medication

Doctor found not guilty of illegally prescribing medication

A doctor who was charged with illegally prescribing medication to a staff member out of an East Liberty women’s clinic was found not guilty on all counts Wednesday.

John P. Barrett, 42, of Mt. Lebanon was charged in March with three counts, including selling a controlled substance, illegally dispensing and illegally administering a controlled substance.

According to the criminal complaint, the Allegheny Women’s Center, at 121 N. Highland Ave., which has since closed, was receiving large quantities of Diethylpropion, an obesity medication. There were approximately 20,000 pills unaccounted for over a four-year period from the clinic.

Investigators said they found the medicine was being used by Mark Wagner, a lab tech, who took it to treat anxiety and depression.

But prosecutors said Mr. Wagner was not a patient of Dr. Barrett, the clinic’s director, or Dr. Alton Lawson, and that the man’s psychiatrist was not aware he was taking the medication.

In July, Dr. Lawson pleaded guilty to two count of sale of a controlled substance and entered the court’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, which will clear his record after nine month of successful probation.

Mr. Wagner pleaded guilty in May to five misdemeanor counts and was sentenced to five years probation. He told investigators that he used the drug but also sold it to a friend to help her lose weight.

Dr. Barrett had a nonjury trial before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Anthony M. Mariani on Wednesday.

Defense attorney Steven C. Townsend called no witnesses, but argued to the court that even though his client’s DEA number was used to order medications for the clinic, that did not mean he was aware Mr. Wagner was using it, abusing it or not an actual patient of Dr. Lawson.

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Corporate America: Buying their way out of jail again??

There were a lot of people who cooperate(d) and will likely not ever engage in this type of conduct, but really?  Another corporate entity, including it’s executives, are buying there way out of jail. 


United States Announces $15 Million Penalty and Non-Prosecution Agreement with Krones


November 8, 2012


PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Krones Aktiengesellschaft, a company based in Neutraubling, Germany, and its American subsidiary, Krones, Inc., of Franklin, Wisconsin (hereinafter collectively Krones), have entered into a non-prosecution agreement (NPA) with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania, which resolves allegations arising from Krones’ involvement in the fraudulent scheme perpetrated by Gregory Podlucky and others, which resulted in the failure in 2006 of Le-Nature’s Inc., U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.

Under the terms of the NPA Krones will pay a $15 million monetary penalty to the United States. In addition, Krones will pay restitution to entities the U.S. Attorney’s Office asserts suffered losses as a result of Krones conduct with Le-Natures.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, during 2004-2006, Krones cooperated with Gregory Podlucky and Le-Nature’s in deceiving lenders over the cost of bottling equipment being manufactured for use at Le-Nature’s plants. Lenders financing the equipment were told cost amounts by Podlucky, confirmed by Krones, approximately twice as much as the actual cost. Krones then received the excessive payments as the manufacturing process progressed, kept funds to cover the equipment, and forwarded the additional approximately $118 million to Le-Nature’s.

U.S. Attorney Hickton said, “Fifteen million dollars is the largest financial penalty ever imposed in this District. We entered into this agreement with Krones because we are satisfied the penalty is of a magnitude adequate to deter Krones from becoming an instrument of a criminal scheme in the future, as well as to deter others from transacting business by deceitful means. Also entering into the balance in making this agreement was Krones’ cooperation with our investigation, and its own internal management changes which we believe help make unlikely any similar conduct by the company in the future.

“In addition to the penalty to be paid to the United States, as a condition precedent to the NPA, Krones has resolved civil litigation arising from the same transactions, and will make payments which essentially provide for the victims of the scheme to recover restitution for their losses. In total, the cost to Krones for its conduct will be approximately $125 million.

“The financial marketplace operates on a bedrock principle of good faith. Those who do not meet that standard should understand the United States will hold them to account.

“I want to acknowledge the skill and diligence of the investigators from the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service/Criminal Investigation, whose efforts over several years have served the public interest so well, and enabled us to achieve this significant result today, as well as in previous prosecutions related to the Le-Nature’s scandal.”

Assistant U.S. Attorneys James Y. Garrett and Robert S. Cessar are handling the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

Governor Corbett Signs Justice Reinvestment; Other Law Enforcement Bills

HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 25, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Governor Tom Corbett today signed House Bill 135, the second phase of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative that will redirect funds from corrections to communities.

Corbett also signed into law several other pieces of legislation, all related to Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system.

“These reforms are all part of a philosophy that says justice, in order to work, must be administered with firmness, compassion and common sense,” Corbett said. “We need to be smarter, more adaptable and more determined to solve crime and prevent crime.”

Accompanied by Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel, several members of the General Assembly and others who sponsored or advocated for the legislation, Corbett signed the bills into law today at Harrisburg Area Community College.

Wetzel, along with the lawmakers, Sens. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Bucks), Dominic Pileggi (R-Chester), Daylin Leach (D-Delaware), as well as Reps. Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin), Thomas Caltagierone (D-Berks) and Glen Grell (R-Cumberland), were all outspoken advocates of Justice Reinvestment.

In January, Corbett established a working group, including cabinet members, lawmakers from all four legislative caucuses and local criminal justice leaders. With support from the Council of State Governments, the Pew Center on the States and the Department of Justice, the group studied Pennsylvania’s current judicial system and recommended ways to make it more efficient and effective.

Once implemented, funds generated from savings in the state prison system can then be redirected back to local communities to be used for law enforcement, probation, parole and victims’ services.

Also attending today’s event with the governor were cadets from the 102nd class of HACC’s Municipal Police Academy. Graduates of the academy earn certification to work for Pennsylvania’s municipal police departments.

In addition to the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, Corbett also signed the following legislative bills that passed this term:

House Bill 815 – This legislation amends the crimes code to broaden penalties, further providing for the prosecution of the sexual abuse of children and providing for the offense of transmission of sexually explicit images by a minor, also known as sexting.

House Bill 898 – Restores a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for those convicted of making repeat straw purchases of firearms. Earlier this year in Montgomery County, Plymouth Township Police Officer Brad Fox was shot and killed by a man who purchased an illegally acquired gun.

House Bill 1121 – Provides sentencing enhancements for crimes of violence or drug dealing committed in association with a criminal gang.

House Bill 2400 – This updates Pennsylvania’s wiretap law, to reflect new technology and further provide for definitions of the law, as well as the possession, sale, and distribution of devices.

Senate Bill 86 – Updates the Motor Vehicle Code’s chop shop language, offering a broader definition to include vehicles, trailers and semitrailers, as well as outlining specific guidelines for inspection and searches of garages and repair shops.

House Bill 1794 – Act providing for HIV-related testing for certain sex offenders. This brings Pennsylvania into compliance with the Violence Against Women Act, allowing for the testing of certain sexual offenders within 48 hours after criminal information is filed. 

House Bill 235 – This legislation provides for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline Notification Act; imposing duties on the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to develop a response plan to help victims.

Senate Bill 850 – Provides sentencing exceptions for minors convicted of murder, providing options for judges rather than the mandatory life in prison; expungement for certain juvenile offenders, sentencing enhancements for murder of a child under the age of 13 and provides the victim advocate with the authority to advocate for victims of juvenile crimes. 

Senate Bill 941–Increases fines for public drunkenness and underage drinking. The bill also makes it a summary offense if a person less than 21 years, attempts to purchase, purchases, consumes, possesses or knowingly and intentionally transports alcoholic beverages. Currently a summary offense carries a fine of not more than $300 unless otherwise provided and this legislation increases it to $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for second and subsequent offenses.

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Several Charges Dismissed Against Azul Restaurant Owner

Preliminary hearings are held at District Magistrate Robert Ford’s office in Leetsdale. 

A single simple assault charge was held for court Tuesday in the case of a Leetsdale restaurant owner accused of punching a former employee in the face and grabbing his neck.

Two counts of aggravated assault and a charge of reckless endangerment were withdrawn against Angus K. Peterkin, 55, of Buhlmont Drive prior to the preliminary hearing in Leetsdale District Court.

Allegheny County Assistant District Attorney Robert Heister amended the charges filed Oct. 1 to a single count of simple assault. Peterkin also faced one count of providing false reports to law enforcement, but Judge Robert Ford later dismissed that charge.

According to a criminal complaint, Peterkin, owner of Azul Bar y Cantina, fired Richard Grabowski on Sept. 12 and told him not to return after they argued inside the restaurant.

Grabowski, 20, testified Tuesday that he returned to the neighborhood the following night to visit a friend at Marroni’s Lounge about a block from Azul’s. Grabowski said he didn’t find his friend at the bar, so he stopped by the employee parking lot across the street from Azul’s to write a note to leave on another friend’s car.

He stopped back at Marroni’s once more, before Grabowski said he started walking back to his car parked on Broad Street. That’s when he said Peterkin walked up and attacked him on the public sidewalk.

Grabowski testified that Peterkin began shouting at him before he punched him in the face and side of head, leaving a ringing noise in his left ear. He said Peterkin never gave a reason for striking him, except to say, “I told you never to be here again,” Grabowski testified.

According to the criminal complaint, Peterkin asked a passerby to call police because Grabowski was trespassing on his property. The passerby then warned Grabowski to leave the area. 

Peterkin’s attorney, Steven Townsend of Pittsburgh said his client had a right to defend his property and that Grabowski’s testimony of where the altercation occurred was inconsistent with the police report, which states that Peterkin confronted Grabowski in his employee parking lot.

Heister said the circumstances do not fall under the new Castle Doctrine law in Pennsylvania—a law which expands a homeowner’s right to use lethal force a protectionl He argued that many of Townsend’s questions were beyond the scope of the preliminary hearing and irrelevant.

Townsend disagreed. “He’s the one who’s given the statement to police that’s completely inconsistent to what he’s testified to,” Townsend said.

Grabowski testified that he was evaluated by paramedics at the police station afterward and was said to be fine.

Leetsdale police Sgt. William Dreyer said the investigation led to a charge of false reports against Peterkin because he gave differing oral and written statements. Dreyer said Peterkin altered his story in a written statement to say he was walking employees out of work when he saw Grabowski, although in his earlier account to police he said he instructed a waitress to keep everyone inside the restaurant and took matters into his own hands, he said.

Townsend called for the judge to dismiss the case against Peterkin, who appeared in court, but did not testify. The false reports charge was dismissed, and the simple assault charge held for court.

After the hearing, Townsend reiterated that it was Grabowski who changed his story from what he initially told police.

“That’s what happens when you tell lies,” Townsend said. “You can’t keep it straight.”  

Federal Drug Conviction Overturned due to the govt’s “impermissible speculation.”

We readily conclude that the district court erred, in part, when it denied Hickman’s motion for judgment of acquittal as to the one-kilogram conspiracy charged in the indictment.  The Government’s strained attempt, through extrapolations testified to by a drug enforcement agent, to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the charged conspiracy involved at least one kilogram of heroin relies on impermissible speculation and cannot be sustained. For anyone addicted to the consumption of drugs, they can contact drug rehab and find a permanent solution to their addiction.

Kevin Hickman after Muse Treatment was charged in two of the 11 counts in a superseding indictment, namely (1) conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin (Count I) and (2) possession of heroin with intent to distribute (Count VI), in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1). Alone among the eight defendants, Hickman proceeded to trial. The jury convicted Hickman on both counts and, pursuant to the Government’s notice of enhanced punishment, the district court imposed a mandatory life sentence on the conspiracy count and a concurrent sen- tence of 360 months of imprisonment on the possession with intent to distribute count. In this timely appeal, Hickman principally contends that the Government failed to offer sufficient evidence to support his conspiracy conviction and therefore the district court erred in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal on that count.

Pennsylvania Politics Continues To Trump Health And The Environment

By  The Public Record Jul 6th, 2012

Politics continues to threaten the health and welfare of Pennsylvanians.

The latest is how the Republican-dominated legislature and Gov. Tom Corbett separated one of the wealthiest and more high-tech/industrial areas of the state from the rural areas.

Less than a week before the 2011–2012 fiscal year budget was scheduled to expire, June 30, the majority party slipped an amendment into the 2012–2013 proposed budget, (SB1263), to ban natural gas drilling in a portion of southeastern Pennsylvania for up to six years. The South Newark Basin includes portions of Bucks, Montgomery, and Berks counties, and could provide at least 360 billion cubic feet of natural gas, according to estimates by the United States Geologic Survey.

Only an e-mail blast by anti-fracking activist Iris Marie Bloom and a short AP story the day before the budget was passed alerted Pennsylvanians to the amendment that gives special consideration to the suburban areas of Philadelphia.

High volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, is a process that injects under heavy pressure as much as 10 million gallons of water, sand, gases, and chemicals, many of them known carcinogens, into a rock formation as much as 10,000 feet below the earth’s surface to open channels and force out natural gas and fossil fuels. However, numerous studies have concluded that the process of fracking to extract natural gas poses significant problems to the health of citizens and their environment.

In his first budget address, Corbett declared he wanted to “make Pennsylvania the hub of this [drilling] boom. Just as the oil companies decided to headquarter in one of a dozen states with oil, let’s make Penn­syl­va­nia the Texas of the nat­ural gas boom.”

The push by Corbett and the Republicans in the Legislature that led to the enactment of the highly-controversial Act 13 to open gas drilling was possibly not only because they favor corporate development but because it was also payback for extensive campaign contributions by the natural gas industry. Corbett had taken more than $1.6 million in contributions from persons and PACs associated with the natural gas industry, according to data compiled by Common Cause.

Rep. Brian L. Ellis (R-Butler County, Pa.), sponsor of the House bill, received $23,300. Sen. Joseph B. Scarnati (R- Warren, Pa.), the senate president pro-tempore who sponsored the companion Senate bill (SB 1100), received $293,334, according to Marcellus Money. Rep. Dave Reed (R-Indiana, Pa.), chair of the majority policy committee, received $105,732; Rep. Mike Turzai (R-McCandless, Pa.), majority floor leader, received $79,100. Of the 20 Pennsylvania legislators who received the most money from the industry in the past decade, 16 are Republicans, according to Common Cause.

The Republican legislators who enthusiastically supported Act 13 but then created an amendment to exempt a part of the state, claim the amendment was needed to give time to better study the effects of fracking. “We basically said we didn’t know [the South Newark Basin] was there before when we did Act 13,” said State Sen. Charles T. McIhnnerey(R- Doylestown), sponsor of the amendment. However, the presence of natural gas in southeastern Pennsylvania wasn’t exactly a secret; energy companies had been active for several years in the region. McIhnnerey, “We need to slow this down until we can do a study on it—see what’s there, see where it is, see how deep it is, study the impact, get the local supervisor’s [sic] thoughts on it.”

“Where was our study?” demanded State Rep. Jesse White (D-Washington County), who actively opposes Act 13 and has been trying to get responsibility on the part of the Industry and the state Legislature regarding drilling in the Marcellus and Utica shales. “We were here four months ago [when Act 13 was passed] under the guise of, we had to have uniformity, we had to have consistency, we needed to be fair,” said Rep. White, “and now, four months later, we’re saying, ‘Maybe, for whatever reason, we’re going to give a few people a pass.’”

Karen Feridun, founder of Berks Gas Truth, and one of the state’s more active opponents of fracking, says, “Studies are not being conducted before drilling begins anywhere else in the state . . . nor are studies being conducted on the potential impacts of the pipeline operations already coming here [to Berks County].”

David Meiser, chair of the Bucks County Sierra Club, said the Legislature “should either exempt all counties from Act 13 and not just try to get special treatment from Sen. McIlhinney’s core area, or repeal the law entirely.”

Sen. McIhnnerey proudly noted the last-minute legislation “makes good on my promise that Act 13 was not intended to apply to Bucks County.”

By his own words, it is time for the Republican majority, so willing to expose rural Pennsylvania to the effects of fracking, to now honestly answer two significant questions.

The first question to the Republicans is, “Why do you support a state law that discriminates against the rural counties, while you support a special exemption that protects the health and welfare of the urban and suburban counties that have many of the state’s most powerful and wealthiest constituents, including the head of the Department of Environmental Protection and the lieutenant governor?”

The second question is, simply, “How much more money will it take to continue to buy your loyalty to corporations, the powerful, and the affluent?”

Walter Brasch, recipient of the Pennsylvania Press Club’s lifetime achievement award, is a syndicated columnist, author of 17 books, former newspaper and magazine reporter and editor, and professor emeritus of mass communications. His current book is the critically acclaimed novel Before the First Snow, which discusses health and welfare issues in energy exploration. His next book is about health, environment, and political corruption associated with the natural gas industry.


Conway man faces trial in child sex assault case

By Kristen Doerschner

BEAVER — A Conway man will go to trial on charges that he sexually assaulted a young girl.

Thomas H. Javens, 32, of 1621 Sampson St. was charged May 10 by New Brighton Area police with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, aggravated indecent assault and indecent assault of a person less than 13 years of age.

Following a preliminary hearing Friday, District Judge Joseph Schafer held the charges of aggravated indecent assault and indecent assault to court and dismissed the charge of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.

The girl, who is now 8, testified the assault occurred when she was 3 or 4 years old at a home in New Brighton.

Asked by Assistant District Attorney Frank Martocci whether and how she knew Javens, the girl responded, “Yes … Because he’s the one who did it to me.”

With her head down and her hands partially covering her face, the girl testified that Javens told her to go into a bedroom, take off her pants and lie on a bed. She then described the assault that followed. She said no one else was home at the time of the incident.

The girl said she eventually told her mother about the assault, though it wasn’t on the same day.

At one point, the victim’s family in the courtroom became emotional, and defense attorney Steven Townsend raised concerns that they may have been prompting the victim on the witness stand. Several family members left the courtroom for the remainder of the testimony. Apex Bail Bonds were also involved in the case to deliver fair and quick justice.

The girl was the only witness to testify. Townsend argued the commonwealth did not present enough evidence to support the charges. He questioned the child’s competency and raised concerns over her inability to answer many questions he asked, though they were questions about things before and after the incident and not the assault itself.

Martocci said the victim was able to answer many questions in great detail including where she was living at the time, what she was wearing, and what Javens allegedly told her to do and did to her.

Though it was not presented during Friday’s hearing, a police report said that on April 26 a “pretext phone call” was made to Javens. The phone call is a tool that can be used in sexual assault investigations in which the victim, under police supervision, initiates a call to the defendant that is recorded in an effort to get the defendant to make incriminating statements.

In the phone call with Javens, he apologized to the girl for the acts he committed against her and assured her that it was his fault and not hers, the report said.

Javens has been free after posting $25,000 bond on May 11.

Revised court rules protect juveniles

Revised court rules protect juveniles

June 4, 2012 12:09 am

Revamped juvenile court procedures will prevent schools from taking additional disciplinary measures when a child gets in legal trouble outside of school, attorneys said.

The additions to Pennsylvania’s Rules of Juvenile Court Procedure — Rules 160, 161 and 163 — were released in May by the high court and are set to be effective in August.

The Supreme Court procedural revisions came in the same month that a Mt. Lebanon High School senior was forced to miss his prom, and tonight’s graduation ceremony, because he was cited for possession of drug paraphernalia April 23 by Mt. Lebanon police in an off-campus, after-school-hours incident.

That senior was not a juvenile, but the new procedural rules could affect cases similar to his, said the student’s attorney, Steve Townsend.

“They’re on the right track,” he said. “We already have a criminal justice system” in place that is supposed to handle criminal adjudication outside of school.

Rule 163, which pertains to releasing juvenile information to schools, was given a face-lift — Section E, a new part of the rule, will now protect unauthorized dissemination of information in a child’s school record to any unauthorized person, agency or department under a possible finding of contempt.

And in an explanatory comment, Rule 163 now sets forth that information sent to the school about a student’s juvenile court proceedings may not be used to discipline that student in school.

Specifically, the new rule explains that “any information received by the school [regarding a student’s delinquency or court record] should not be used against the juvenile for disciplinary reasons, including suspensions and expulsions.”

Mr. Townsend said that the word “including” was an important one, because it suggests that other areas of discipline, beyond expulsion or suspension, are out of bounds as well — such as forcing a student to miss the prom. The rule, he noted, does not differentiate between “rights” and “privileges,” as Mt. Lebanon has sought to do.

It merely says that legal issues should not be “used against the juvenile for disciplinary reasons.”

And forcing a student to miss the prom, or sit out a football game, or miss any other “privilege,” is still a form of discipline.

“Clearly, when you take a privilege away from someone, it’s discipline — it’s punishment.”

The new rule was a welcome addition for other attorneys who specialize in children’s interests.

Marsha Levick of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia called the rule an “important protection,” noting the likelihood that students returning from juvenile court sanctions often come back to face further punishment from school.

“There’s no justification for the school taking separate action,” Ms. Levick said.

An entirely new procedural rule, Rule 161, sets forth who may inspect, copy and disseminate a juvenile’s probation file — which is not to be confused with filings in the official court record.

This distinction, along with what may and may not be shared, according to one practitioner who focuses on child advocacy, had been a point unclear among probation officers under the old rules.

Also revised was Rule 160, on inspecting, copying and disseminating the official court record.

According to Frank Cervone, executive director of the Support Center for Child Advocates, there had been confusion among probation officers as to what they could share with placement facilities that rehabilitate youths out of juvenile court.

Now, Rule 161 — “Inspecting, Copying and Disseminating Juvenile Probation Files” — should settle that, he said.

The rule sets forth that juvenile probation offices have discretion to disseminate portions of their files to the juvenile, service providers, placement facilities and court staff when serving that child.

Mr. Cervone, who sat on the nine-member Juvenile Court Procedural Rules Committee tasked with advising the Supreme Court on the rules, noted he could not speak on the deliberations of the committee or the court, as they are internal, but offered his perspective as an attorney whose practice revolves around child advocacy.

“It’s long been the law in Pennsylvania that juvenile record information is not widely shared, that a wayward past should not haunt you,” Mr. Cervone said. But, where the Pennsylvania law, under the governance of the Juvenile Act, and a previous set of rules had left room for misunderstanding, the new set of rules ties up the loose ends, he said.

According to Mr. Cervone, Rule 161 also adds needed language about how electronic records may be inspected, which he said provides safeguards against the information adversely affecting employment opportunities and credit checks.

Electronic records will be subject to inspection and copying only pursuant to a court order, Rule 161 states.

As for the actual probation files, the rule allows the juvenile’s attorney, a lawyer for the state and the Sexual Offender Assessment Board to have open access. Anyone else aiming to inspect the files may only do so through permission of a court order.

Juvenile probation files are defined as records “formally maintained by the juvenile probation office and its officers, including, but not limited to, copies of information contained in the official juvenile court record; social studies; school records and reports; health evaluations, screenings, assessments, records and reports, including psychological and psychiatric evaluations and reports, drug and alcohol testing, evaluations and reports; placement reports and documents; employment records; and probation reports.”

Under the rule, a probation officer’s notes are now protected from disclosure, a policy that Mr. Cervone said gives a probation officer the “privacy of his mind.”

Rule 160 now provides guidance on who may copy and disseminate official court records, whereas the old rule only dealt with credentials for inspection.

Under the new rule, anyone entitled to inspect the juvenile’s record may also copy it.

The rule left untouched a long list of approved inspectors, among whom were judges, masters, juvenile probation officers and staff of the court; the state’s attorney, the juvenile’s attorney and the juvenile; any agency that has custody or supervision of the juvenile; and probation officers and other court officials. Others included were judges determining bail, the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts and officials of the Department of Corrections or another state correctional institution.

Asked whether the new juvenile rules were in response to the Luzerne County judicial scandal, both Mr. Cervone and Ms. Levick said no. The scandal, dubbed by prosecutors as “kids-for-cash,” cast a pall on the state’s judiciary as thousands of juveniles were ushered off to two privately owned juvenile detention centers from which, prosecutors alleged, two Luzerne County judges were receiving kickbacks.

Ms. Levick said the Luzerne County situation uncovered the need for a number of changes to Pennsylvania’s juvenile court procedure, but the release of probation information did not appear to be related.

Many called for the state to open the doors to its juvenile courtrooms as the scandal unraveled and Ms. Levick said tighter restrictions on access to records would not interfere with that initiative.

After all, as Ms. Levick put it: “Access would not have changed anything in Luzerne.”

Ben Present: or 1-215-557-2315. To read more articles like this, visit
First Published June 4, 2012 12:00 am

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