New judges selected for Pozonsky case

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Two judges from outside Washington County have been selected by the state Supreme Court to handle the criminal case of former judge Paul Pozonsky after he was accused of stealing cocaine from police evidence while presiding over the cases.


Senior District Judge Michael Gerheim of Armstrong County was appointed to handle Pozonsky’s preliminary hearing while Senior Bedford County Judge Daniel Lee Howser will preside over the case if it reaches Common Pleas Court.


Pozonsky was charged May 23 with one felony count of conflict of interest and more than a dozen misdemeanor counts, including theft, obstruction of justice, misapplying entrusted government property and possession of a controlled substance.


He was released on $25,000 bond and was allowed to return to his new home in Anchorage, Alaska.


Pozonsky, 57, was scheduled to have a preliminary hearing Thursday, but that was postponed while the judges were selected. District court officials said a new preliminary hearing date has not been selected.


Investigators accused Pozonsky of stealing cocaine evidence after ordering police to bring it into his courtroom during several routine pretrial hearings. He allegedly kept the drugs in a locked cabinet in a vault in his office.


District Attorney Gene Vittone on multiple occasions asked for the evidence to be returned so it could be properly stored or destroyed. However, Pozonsky told Vittone that he personally destroyed all of the evidence in his possession. Last May, a court reporter in Pozonsky’s office found a box containing evidence and turned it over to the district attorney’s office.


Pozonsky abruptly resigned from his seat on the bench last June after being removed from hearing criminal cases by President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca when reports surfaced that he was being investigated by a state grand jury.


The drug court program he founded was temporarily shut down, and he was removed from supervising its cases.


Pozonsky has been living in Alaska for the past year with his wife, Sara.


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