Hearing to suppress evidence in former judge’s drug case complete

July 31, 2014
Former Washington County Judge Paul Pozonsky, center, leaves Washington County Courthouse flanked by lawyers Mark Fiorilli, left, and Robert Del Greco Jr. following a pretrial hearing earlier this year. - Observer-Reporter Order a Print

A hearing on whether certain evidence can be introduced at the trial of former Washington County Judge Paul Pozonsky wrapped up Thursday morning, after dragging on for the better part of three months.

Pozonsky’s lawyers, Mark Fiorilli and Robert Del Greco Jr., argued items taken from the judge’s office during a May 2012 search should not be allowed as evidence in Pozonsky’s upcoming trial on charges of misapplying evidence. Fiorilli and Del Greco claim an administrative order issued by Washington County President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca was treated like a search warrant. Del Greco argued numerous times that state police and the state attorney general’s office, which were criminally investigating Pozonsky, did not have probable cause for a search warrant.

Pozonsky is accused of stealing cocaine evidence while presiding over several criminal cases. He was charged with conflict of interest, theft, obstruction of justice, possession of a controlled substance and misapplying entrusted government property.

Thursday’s hearing was one of two evidentiary hearings in the case. Washington County District Attorney Gene Vittone was called for testimony. Del Greco questioned Vittone about the timeline of events May 9, 2012, the day the administrative order was issued and executed. He called the events of that day “peculiar.”

“It’s a peculiar procedure to have the district attorney request an administrative order from a judge with the attorney general and state police present, who admit they did not have probable cause for a search warrant,” Del Greco said. “Then to have the administrative order executed by entities that were criminally investigating the subject. Sounds to me like the state police and the attorney general’s office had a more keen interest in obtaining this evidence than Vittone.”

Vittone testified his main concern that day was to secure the evidence, and at least two cases in which Pozonsky had possession of the evidence were in the appeal process. He testified he had state police remove the evidence in question from Pozonsky’s office, instead of having the district attorney’s detective secure it, because it would have placed a strain on the office.

Del Greco said the questions were originally intended for O’Dell Seneca. O’Dell Seneca was subpoenaed to testify in the case, but filed a motion in May to quash the subpoena. In the same motion, she also requested an order protecting her from being subpoenaed again.

Senior Bedford County Judge Daniel Lee Howsare, who is presiding over the case, granted her motions.

Del Greco said he “believes in the constitutionally” of the suppression motion. If Howsare grants the suppression motion, Del Greco said he believes the attorney general’s office will have no choice but to withdraw the charges.

Pozonsky, who moved to Alaska after resigning from the bench in June 2012, did not attend Thursday’s hearing.

Both parities have 45 days to file their briefs in the case. A decision is expected around mid- to late fall.

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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