Ex-judge Pozonsky challenges seizure of evidence

February 24, 2014
Paul Pozonsky

A former Washington County judge who is accused of stealing cocaine seized in police investigations is challenging the legality of the manner in which evidence against him was secured last year.

On Monday, Paul Pozonsky and his attorney filed a pretrial motion with the Washington County clerk of courts office arguing a May 9 administrative order from President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca used to search Pozonsky’s chambers was “illegal, invalid and unconstitutional,” according to Pozonsky’s filing. The order, which was not a search warrant, was treated like one, and searches may only be authorized by warrants, Pozonsky contends.

As a result, Pozonsky argues all of the evidence obtained in the search should be suppressed.

Pozonsky, 58, who lived in Cecil Township until moving to Kenai, Alaska, after his abrupt resignation from the bench last year, is charged with a felony count of conflict of interest and multiple misdemeanor counts including theft, obstruction of justice, misapplication of entrusted government property and possession of a controlled substance.

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, and replaced them with other substances, including baking soda.

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

In addition to the pretrial motion, Pozonsky’s Pittsburgh-based defense attorney, Robert Del Greco Jr., filed a bill of particulars. The document asks for a quick response to the pretrial motion, states that Pozonsky waives his rights to a speedy trial and requests the opportunity to supplement new information to the pretrial motion. It also asks for a 60-day continuance. A trial date has not been set.

Pozonsky resigned from his seat in June 2012 after he was removed from hearing criminal cases by O’Dell Seneca when reports surfaced that he was being investigated by a state grand jury. He spent nearly 15 years on the bench as a Washington County judge and previously served 13 years as a district magistrate in Cecil Township and McDonald.

Pozonsky and his wife, Sara, then moved to Alaska, where he took a job as a compensation hearing officer for the Alaska Department of Labor. Two months later, he resigned after questions surfaced about the hiring process and the political connections of his wife’s family.

Pozonsky remains free on a $25,000 unsecured bond.

Francesca Sacco joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in November 2013, and covers the Washington County Courthouse and education. Prior to working with the Observer-Reporter, Francesca was a staff writer with a Gannett paper in Ohio. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor’s degree in print and broadcast journalism.

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