The state Superior Court has overturned former Washington County Judge Paul Pozonsky’s decision to dismiss charges against a woman accused of stealing more than $530,000 from a Bentleyville car dealership.
The court announced Tuesday its decision to send the charges against Elisa Liberatore-Thomas, 35, of 103 Ann St., Brownsville, back to Washington County Court after ruling Pozonsky erred in dismissing them over claims the case was not brought to trial in a timely manner.
Liberatore-Thomas was charged in October 2009 after investigators accused her of stealing $534,248 from Tregembo Ford while she worked there as the business manager from 2004 to 2008. She faced felony charges of illegal proceeds, receiving stolen property and three counts of theft.
Numerous legal maneuvers from both sides delayed the case coming to court for more than two years.
Pozonsky threw out the charges April 17, 2012, because he said Liberatore-Thomas was not brought to trial within 365 days as required by state court Rule 600. Local authorities appealed the case the following month and have since been waiting for the appellate court’s decision.
Washington County District Attorney Gene Vittone said he was pleased with the court’s decision.
“Obviously, I’m happy that the Superior Court sided with us and reversed it,” Vittone said. “We intend to proceed and prosecute as quickly as we can.”
The Superior Court wrote in its unanimous opinion that Liberatore-Thomas asked for multiple delays before her preliminary hearing and other pretrial motions, which pushed back the court date.
The adjusted Rule 600 trial date should have been March 6, 2012, according to the court, but Liberatore-Thomas made her motion to dismiss the case a week earlier. That timeline meant Pozonsky incorrectly dismissed the charges, the three-judge panel decided.
“As such, the Rule 600 motion was premature and the trial court erred as a matter of law in granting relief and dismissing the causes of action against (Liberatore-Thomas),” according to the opinion.
Defense attorney Dennis Paluso could not be reached for comment.
The Superior Court’s decision comes four months after Pozonsky was charged with stealing cocaine evidence while presiding over several criminal cases. He resigned from the bench in June 2012 and is awaiting trial on the charges.