Hearing set on president judge’s testimony in Pozonsky case

June 4, 2014

A visiting judge will conduct a hearing Friday on whether Washington County President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca should be required to testify in a suppression hearing for former Washington County judge Paul Pozonsky.

The May suppression hearing, which was left open because O’Dell Seneca could not attend, centered on the argument that anything taken from Pozonsky’s office during a May 2012 search should not be allowed as evidence in his upcoming trial on charges that he misappropriated cocaine evidence in his control.

Pozonsky’s defense attorneys, Robert Del Greco Jr. and Mark Fiorilli, claim that an administrative order written by O’Dell Seneca was treated like a search warrant when it shouldn’t have been.

Two days after Pozonsky’s suppression hearing, O’Dell Seneca filed a motion to quash the subpoena ordering her to testify. In the same motion, she also requested an order protecting her from being subpoenaed again in the case.

Del Greco and Fiorilli claim O’Dell Seneca’s involvement spans the initial investigation of Pozonsky, according to their response to her motion to quash the subpoena.

The attorneys claim O’Dell Seneca was not presented with an affidavit of probable cause, and that there are no “statutes, local rules or other regulations regarding the search or audit of judicial chambers,” court documents show.

As a result, they claim that the president judge was not acting as part of an official proceeding when she issued the order. In her motion to quash the subpoena, the president judge argues “judicial officers are immune from testifying as to information surrounding their conduct during an official proceeding.” Therefore, she argues, the examination of a judge’s decision-making process is a “prohibited area of inquiry.”

Pozonsky’s attorneys argue that the president judge is “an appropriate witness for the suppression hearing.”

Pozonsky, 58, who is now living near Anchorage, Alaska, is accused of stealing cocaine evidence while presiding over several criminal cases. He was charged more than a year ago with conflict of interest, theft, obstruction of justice, possession of a controlled substance and misapplying entrusted government property.

Senior Bedford County Judge Daniel Lee Howsare, brought in to handle the case, will issue his decision on O’Dell Seneca’s motion after a hearing at 9:30 a.m. Friday in Washington County Courthouse.

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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