Centre County Judge Orders Change Handling Right-to-Know Requests About Court

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    The Shakespearean drama continues Updated January 10, 2017

    Quick update: A court case was enmeshed in the open records issue discussed extensively above. Jalene McClure was convicted in Centre County Court (September 2014) of an August 2010 assault on a 5-month-old child and sentenced to 10-to-20 years. Within days of sentencing, McClure’s attorney, Bernard Cantorna, filed an open records request for phone records (the open records issue described above) that showed text messages between then Centre County Judge Bradley P. Lunsford and members of the District Attorney’s Office. Some of the communications were suggested to have been made ex parte during trial. The sentence was vacated in August and sent back to Centre County Court for a new trial. Lunsford was removed from hearing criminal cases and then retired in 2015. This is where we are today.

    Clinton County Senior Judge J. Michael Williamson decided in a December out of county pretrial conference that the texts were not an influence in McClure’s trial. Williamson dismissed a motion to preclude the trial. Shakespeare wrote: “With respect to the social interaction between [Judge] Lunsford and members of the district attorney’s staff [District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller], while perhaps more extensive [than] would be anticipated in a small county, we find nothing so egregious as to warrant dismissal of the charges against the defendant.” This is, Watchdog opines, code that the extensive “ex parte communications” on county owned cell phones presumably in and out of court were “personal” not judicial in nature. The exact text of the text is protected at a level envied by the National Security Agency.

    Read more at: http://www.centredaily.com/news/local/crime/article125487954.html#navlink=SecList



    Watchdogs AskNnew Pennsylvania AG to investigate Centre County DA Parks Miller

    “Two Harrisburg watchdog groups presented Josh Shapiro’s office with a request for a full investigation just after he was sworn in at noon as the state’s new AG. Gene Stilp, of Taxpayers and Ratepayers United, and Eric Epstein, of Rock the Capital, want him to take a look at the tangled relationship between Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller, convicted and resigned AG Kathleen Kane and her successor, Bruce Castor.” Read the entire article at: http://www.centredaily.com/news/local/article126950414.html#navlink=SecList
    This is a good summary of the case by one of the best reporters in Centre County, Lori Falce.



    Pennsylvania Superior Court orders Judge Not to Proceed with Centre County Cases on Appeal
    Update: January 26, 2017

    Watchdog opines that Centre County and the State College area in particular have a penchant to create chaos when open records and open meetings laws are involved. This particularly includes Pennsylvania State University, the State College Area School District, State College Borough government, and now the Centre County Court System. All of this abetted by a local newspaper renowned more for stenography than investigation. Curiosity may kill a cat but never a Centre Daily Times (CDT) reporter. The CDT lacks the aggressive spirit needed to protect the Pennsylvania Sunshine Laws.

    The loonary here is embedded in long standing and deep seated “progressive” attitudes that it is best to protect institutional reputation at the cost of transparency. Violate the doctrine and kiss goodby to advertising revenue.

    Two hearings slated for January 25, 2017 at the Centre County Courthouse hit roadblocks when the state Superior Court intervened on behalf of the commonwealth. Two criminal cases (2013 and 2014 respectively) were scheduled for retrials in Centre County this coming February. The retrials are a consequence of the handling of the open records issue pertaining to alleged ex parte texting communication between a judge and the DA using county owned cell phones. The cell phone records were considered to be public not judicial records.

    The court expressed “serious concerns that the animosity, which is manifested in these proceedings between [DA] Parks Miller and [Defense Attorney] Cantorna is such that the integrity of the judicial system, as well as the defendants’ right to a fundamentally fair trial, are jeopardized if this case were to proceed to trial before the resolution of the election proceedings.” [Parks Miller and Cantorna are announced opponents in the 2017 election for county district attorney.]

    Read the details here: http://www.centredaily.com/news/local/crime/article128819014.html#navlink=Lead



    Centre County DA’s Secret Fake Facebook Page Smells Like Entrapment
    January 27, 2017

    Watchdog opines this becomes worser and worser: Defense exhibit 27 (of a January 2017 filing pertaining to retrial of a 2014 Centre County criminal case) is reportedly an attempt by District Attorney Parks Miller to bar retrial of the case. It is an email form DA Miller to staff. “All, I [Miller] have made a Facebook page that is fake for us to befriend people and snoop. Her name is Britney Bella. Please edit it, post things occasionally to keep it looking legit, like things, add things, and add friends …. Use it to befriend defendants or witnesses if you want to snoop.”

    Read more: http://www.centredaily.com/news/local/crime/article128875799.html#navlink=SecList

    Centre County Juror Information Questionnaire – PART 2, Question 9: Would you be less likely to believe the testimony of a police officer or other law enforcement officer because of his or her job? YES or NO



    Centre County District Attorney Parks Miller Protests Demand to Preserve Cellphone Texts
    February 1, 2017
    This Open Records case is the engine that could, its keeps going and going. Former paralegal Michelle Shutt requested a federal court to tell her former boss DA Miller to not destroy what may be evidence in a federal trial about the ongoing imbroglio. District Attorney Miller reportedly called the request galling and Shutt a liar.

    Reportedly Miller’s attorney said Miller does not possess the texts in question explaining, “Testimony has already revealed that the technology company hired by Centre County routinely factory resets every phone turned in by any county employee to protect the employee’s privacy and personal information, which happened in this case of the phone at issue in this motion.”

    In the meantime all three county commissioners, without known precedence in Pennsylvania, recused themselves from the county election board.

    Read more of the ongoing drama here: http://www.centredaily.com/news/local/article129907199.html#navlink=SecList
    and http://www.centredaily.com/news/local/community/article129909289.html#navlink=SecList

    Watchdog note: URL posted elsewhere in this chronology pertaining to the conduct of Clinton County Judge J. Michael Williamson by the Williamsport Sun Gazette and The Lock Haven Express have disappeared from the Internet without explanation. Williamson presided cases involving this and other issues in Centre County.



    Federal Judge Grants Protective Order for Evidence in DA Case
    Update: February 2, 2017

    U.S. Federal Judge Matthew Brann granted an emergency motion for a protective order “prohibiting spoliation and preserving evidence.” Brann said he granted the order because it did not require anything to be turned over by the third-party, PATC Tech (a cellphone company holding the electronic devices in question). Brann explained that Plaintiff (paralegal Michelle Shutt) requests that PATC Tech maintain and not destroy potentially relevant evidence.



    Superior Court Rules in Favor of DA in Ongoing Cases
    February 11, 2017
    The article cited below provides adequate summary by the local newspaper of two cases in the center of the imbroglio involving this open records case. Watchdog opines, once again, Senior Clinton County Judge J. Michael Williamson serving in Centre County, is involved with bizarre sentencing. Unfortunately, we opine, revelation of judicial performance, is protected from Pennsylvania Sunshine Laws. Hopefully, the 2015 elections will solve much of the county’s misery.




    Voters Solved the Problem That the Courts Could Not After Two Years — Final Update, June 19, 2017

    Results of Centre County Municipal Primary Election for District Attorney

    Democrat Stacy Parks Miller: 3,135 Democrat votes, 780 write-in votes on Republican Ballot, total: 3,923 votes. Bye, bye Miller.

    There will be only one District Attorney candidate on the general election ballot in November.
    Democrat Bernie Cantorna: 7,159 Democrat votes, 3,619 write-in votes on Republican Ballot, total: 10,773 votes, 73 percent (likely a county record). Cantorna will be only candidate on both the Democrat and Republican Ballots.

    Watchdog (a registered independent) opines that because the Republican Party in Centre County is practically dysfunctional, there was no Republican candidate for District Attorney in the primary election.

    Results as of June 19, 2017 with all but 10 write-in votes resolved.

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