Judge to Habay: Go directly to jail

Former legislator begins his sentence after bond is revoked

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Former state Rep. Jeff Habay was handcuffed and taken to the Allegheny County Jail yesterday after a judge revoked his bond.

Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning ordered the 40-year-old Shaler Republican, who was convicted last year of ordering his staff to do campaign work on state time, to begin serving his six- to 12-month jail sentence at once.

In doing so, the judge expressed frustration with the pace of Mr. Habay's efforts to find a new lawyer and identify an alternative facility, like a halfway house, in which to serve his jail time.

"Mr. Habay continues to avoid what he should be doing, which is serving his sentence," Judge Manning said. "I have come to the conclusion that the court has given Mr. Habay many, many delays."

He rejected the pleas of Mr. Habay's lawyer, Ken Snarey, that he allow the former lawmaker to remain free for the weekend so that he could settle family matters, contact his father, who Mr. Snarey said "is currently dying of bone cancer," and attend his son's 4th birthday party, for which the family has a hall reserved for tomorrow.

During the hearing, Mr. Habay's wife, Nubia, sat in the back row of the gallery, fingering a crucifix on a chain around her neck. She began to cry, resting her forehead on the chair in front of her, when Judge Manning ordered Mr. Habay to jail.

A jury found him guilty Dec. 5 on one of two charges brought by the state attorney general.

Mr. Habay also faces a Nov. 13 trial before Common Pleas Judge Lester G. Nauhaus on 21 additional charges, including seven felony counts.

Judge Manning initially ruled that Mr. Habay could serve his sentence in an alternative site and await the outcome of the second trial before beginning his incarceration.

But a motion from the state attorney general's office yesterday convinced the judge that Mr. Habay's sentence had been postponed too long, particularly after Judge Nauhaus granted him four months to retain a lawyer for the next trial on charges that he intimidated witnesses and filed a false police report.

Last month, Mr. Habay asked that the second trial be rescheduled because he was unable to afford the fees of his original lawyers, James Ecker and John Elash.

Judge Manning said yesterday that Mr. Habay had not made sufficient progress in obtaining a new lawyer to handle the trial before Judge Nauhaus and his appeal of his conviction.

Mr. Snarey, a private attorney hired to defend Mr. Habay just for yesterday's motion, told the judge his client had complied with the judge's order to find an alternative facility in which to serve his jail time. He said Mr. Habay was still looking for a permanent attorney.

Senior Deputy Attorney General Anthony Krastek told the judge Mr. Habay did not deserve further leniency, and that November was too long to wait for Mr. Habay to begin serving his time. Judge Manning agreed.

Mr. Habay said nothing as he left the courtroom, escorted by a sheriff's deputy.

After intake at the county jail, Mr. Habay could be moved to a lower-security facility if the warden approves his request.

Gabrielle Banks can be reached at gbanks@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1370.


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