Pretrial hearing scheduled for ex-judge Pozonsky

May 6, 2014

A hearing to determine whether key evidence against former Washington County Judge Paul Pozonsky can be presented at his trial was scheduled.

Visiting Senior Judge Daniel Lee Howsare of Bedford County set the suppression hearing for 9:30 a.m. May 21 at Washington County Courthouse.

Pozonsky’s lawyers, Pittsburgh-based Mark Fiorilli and Robert Del Greco Jr., argued a May 9, 2012, administrative order from President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca used to search Pozonsky’s chambers was “illegal, invalid and unconstitutional,” according to a pretrial motion filed Feb. 24.

The order, which was not a search warrant, was treated like one, and searches may only be authorized by warrants, the document contends. As a result, Pozonsky’s lawyers argue all evidence obtained in the search should be suppressed and not presented at trial.

Fiorilli and Del Greco also argued for access to grand jury testimony that could also be pertinent to the upcoming hearing. Fiorilli said the testimony could possibly shed light on documents or conversations that pertain to the eight-day span leading up to the May 9 search of Pozonsky’s chambers.

In March, Howsare dismissed the motion for access to the grand jury testimony, citing a lack of jurisdiction. He redirected the motion to the supervising judge of the grand jury. Pozonsky’s lawyers did not return calls for comment.

Pozonsky, 58, who lived in Cecil Township until moving to Kenai, Alaska, after his abrupt resignation from the bench in 2012, 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 the evidence in his possession. An employee in Pozonsky’s office found a box containing evidence and turned it over to the district attorney’s office, authorities said.

Pozonsky resigned from his seat in June 2012, after he was removed from hearing criminal cases by O’Dell Seneca when reports surfaced 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 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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