Defense attorney says evidence lacking against ex-Washington County judge

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A defense attorney for former Judge Paul Pozonsky argued Friday that a closed-door meeting of prosecutors and a judge regarding evidence was "masquerading as an official proceeding" and that judge should testify on the matter in court.

"Frankly, I think what happened ... was a covert, deliberate measure by the government to circumvent the Fourth Amendment," attorney Robert Del Greco said.

Mr. Del Greco made the argument Friday in a suppression hearing before Visiting Senior Judge Daniel Howsare of Bedford County. The defense, seeking to get evidence thrown out, contends that state police and prosecutors instead needed a search warrant to collect drug evidence they found inside a file cabinet in Mr. Pozonsky's chambers.

Mr. Del Greco argued that President Judge Debbie O'Dell Seneca should testify about the administrative order she issued May 9, 2012, that allowed investigators to seize and audit that evidence.

Caroline Liebenguth, an Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts attorney representing Judge O'Dell Seneca, filed a motion to quash the subpoena, and said Friday that judges are compelled to testify only in "extreme situations" -- when they have factual information or are the only person who can testify to certain facts.

"That's clearly not the case here," she said.

Mr. Pozonsky, who resigned in July 2012 and now lives near Anchorage, Alaska, is accused of stealing cocaine stored in evidence envelopes for cases he presided over as a Common Pleas judge in Washington County.

The drugs seized May 9, 2012, were taken to a state police barracks, then presented before a state grand jury, which indicted the 58-year-old former judge a year later.

Eugene Vittone, Washington County district attorney, testified at a hearing last month that "we needed to take immediate action" in seeking the order because he had an obligation as a prosecutor to maintain the integrity of evidence for other cases, some of which were still active.

Mr. Del Greco has said that if the evidence is thrown out, it would cripple the state attorney general office's case against his client.

Judge Howsare likely will make a decision in the coming weeks.

Mr. Pozonsky is charged with eight counts of theft, four counts of possession, one count of misapplication of entrusted property and one count of obstruction, all misdemeanors. He also is charged with felony conflict of interest, a violation of state ethics law.


Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1944. First Published June 6, 2014 2:34 PM


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