Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Montco Legal Community Celebrates Law Day

Montgomery County Courthouse
With the theme “Miranda, More Than Words,” Montgomery County’s legal community gathered last Friday to celebrate Law Day during a cheerful ceremony.

“Law Day is a special day of celebration by the people of the United States wherein we celebrate our commitment to the rule of law and to upholding the fundamental principles enshrined in our founding documents. It aids us in rededicating ourselves with the ideals of equality and justice and helps us to continue to cultivate respect for the law, which is so vital to our democratic way of life,” President Judge William J. Furber Jr. said during his opening remarks to the crowd of more than 100 that gathered in the county’s ceremonial courtroom for the annual celebration.

Speaking about the 1966 case Miranda vs Arizona, Furber said “it reshaped our entire jurisprudence.”

“Miranda has been the most frequently cited case in the history of the Republic. It was indeed, more than words, because the court brought the Bill of Rights into a contemporary understanding. Miranda expressed the vitality of the Constitution but also gave litigants a remedy under the Constitution if their rights were violated, namely suppression of the statements that were allegedly made,” Furber added.

“The Miranda warnings become so ingrained in our popular culture that many know all of its words starting with, ‘You have the right to remain silent,’” Furber continued. “Yet, as the Law Day theme implies, there is much more to Miranda than the words of the warning. It is a living symbol of the importance of procedural fairness and equal justice under the law.”

Judge Todd Eisenberg, who joined the county bench in January, presented the Law Day address, focusing on the Miranda theme.

The annual ceremony included the admission and introduction of the Montgomery Bar Association’s newest members, who were greeted with thunderous applause from the audience.

“For those who will be inducted you will become members of the most efficient, courteous and professional Bar Association within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Take advantage of your membership and all that it has to offer,” said Furber.

“It’s a wonderful place to meet other lawyers and discuss issues of mutual interest while at the same time making what often become lifelong friends. Never will you find a group of lawyers so willing to help those who are embarking upon their new careers. Their experience and advice is an invaluable tool which will benefit you in ways you can never imagine,” Furber said to the new inductees, referring to the association they joined. “This is a relationship that has been cultivated over the years and allows us to work hand-in-hand to provide the framework necessary to promote the practice of law in Montgomery County.”

Michael E. Furey, chair of the association’s Law Day Committee, explained Law Day was established in 1958 by President Dwight Eisenhower by proclamation and in 1961, a joint resolution by Congress set May 1 as the official date for celebrating Law Day.

“I guess I was about 11 or 12 years old when I first heard about Miranda Warnings on a police show on TV. Unfortunately, I’m old enough to remember the police shows before the Miranda Warnings were required,” Furey joked, eliciting some laughter from spectators. “Even at that young age it impressed me of how important it was for somebody accused of a crime to be warned of their rights under the law. That made me proud of our justice system and made me want to know more about it. And eventually I wanted to be part of it.”

During the celebration, Carolyn R. Mirabile, president of the bar association, presented county employees Richard Falcone and Cheryl Leslie with the Courthouse Employee Award, for helping the courts administer justice to the citizens of Montgomery County and providing outstanding service on a daily basis. Falcone is a district court senior clerk and Leslie is deputy court administrator in Family Court.

The bar association's Henry Stuckert Miller Public Service Award was presented to lawyer Marilou Watson

Jeannette Fernandez, Gotwals Elementary School principal, received the annual Public Service Award, presented to a non-lawyer who performs outstanding work for county citizens. Lawyer Harry Chung was presented the Pro Bono Volunteer Award.

Chloe Berger, Kate Krakopolsky, Samantha Panich, Ruth Thomas, Katy Blankenhorn, Victoria Mueller and Aviv Reif, students of Lower Moreland High School, also were honored for winning the association’s annual mock trial competition.

Their teacher coach, John Haldeman, and lawyer advisor, Ken Brodsky, also were on hand to share the honor.

Congratulations to all of those honored during the Law Day event.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Sometimes, You Just Need a Little Levity

Amid all the chaos and doom and gloom that unfold in a criminal courtroom on a daily basis, lawyers and judges offer some moments of levity at times. It’s often a welcome part of the day when those involved in such serious, heavy matters can elicit a smile or produce some laughter with a lighthearted comment or anecdote.

Here’s just a few moments of amusement that Mr. Everybody’s Business observed recently in Montgomery County Court.
Montgomery County Courthouse/Photo Carl Hessler Jr.

During a trial in which the identity of a man who fled from Pottstown police was the main sticking point, Assistant District Attorney Benjamin McKenna and defense lawyer Cary B. Hall debated how an officer could identify the defendant three weeks after the police chase when he saw the man walking along a Pottstown street.

McKenna maintained the officer got a good glimpse of the defendant during the chase and recognized him “instantly” when he saw the man in downtown Pottstown several weeks later. During his closing statement to jurors, McKenna tried to make his “instantly” point by snapping his finger. 

The snap was weak, Ben. Barely audible.

“I wish I could snap better,” McKenna mustered up a joke, eliciting laughs from those in the courtroom.

During his closing statement, Hall questioned the ability of police officers to get a good view of the driver of the fleeing car with all the “craziness” surrounding a car chase at night. Hall compared the flashing lights of the chasing police vehicles to the flashing lights in a nightclub.

But then Hall added to the amusement of jurors, “I haven’t been to a club in a while. I’m 45, what kind of club am I going to?”

Five defendants, with five separate lawyers, can be a bit much to accommodate at a single defense table, that’s for sure. So on a recent day when Judge Steven T. O’Neill was presiding over a pretrial hearing for some alleged drug trafficking defendants, the judge noticed there weren’t enough chairs for all the lawyers.

“Are you comfortable, Mr. Reifsnyder?” the judge asked defense lawyer Nicholas Reifsnyder as he stood in the courtroom, while four other lawyers had seats. 
Nicholas Reifsnyder/Photo Carl Hessler Jr.

“I waive the right to a comfortable chair, judge,” Reifsnyder responded, eliciting laughter from his colleagues.

Assistant District Attorney Alec O’Neill offered some levity during a trial last month when he called Pottstown Police Officer Jeffrey Portock as a witness during the trial of an accused Pottstown shooter. O’Neill asked Portock about his law enforcement background and the officer responded that he now is part of the K9 patrol division.
“Is he keeping the car running right now?” O’Neill asked Portock, referring to the K9 partner, a comment that drew laughter and smiles from jurors and Judge Gail Weilheimer.
“He’s keeping watch,” Portock, not missing a beat, responded with humor.

Judge Gail A. Weilheimer/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.
During the same trial, Weilheimer got a note from the jurors during their deliberations, asking for another reading of the law for a particular charge. 

As the judge, out of earshot of jurors, conferred with Prosecutor O’Neill and defense lawyer Benjamin Cooper about the wording of her explanation to be read to the jury, Cooper said, “I object, your honor.”

“Why?” Weilheimer asked during the impromptu conversation not heard by jurors.

“Because that’s what he does,” O’Neill uttered quickly with a smile, acknowledging the friendly competition between the lawyers.

Outside of court one day last month, Assistant District Attorney Douglas Lavenberg was asked to comment about the retirement of one of his mentors, Bradford A. Richman, who headed the DUI prosecution unit since it was launched in 2014, a unit where Lavenberg cut his prosecutorial teeth. Lavenberg had glowing comments about Richman, who he likened to a father figure who he could turn to for guidance on the job.

But Lavenberg couldn’t resist the temptation to joke one last time about Richman’s trademark of wearing a bow tie to work each day.
Bradford A. Richman/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.

“I really think that Brad’s biggest flaw is his superiority because of his ability to tie a bow tie and he holds that over everyone and says, “If you need lessons come see me.’ Even with those lessons I can’t do it.  So, his superiority complex has really gotten out of control,” Lavenberg laughed good-heartedly.

Thanks to all of those who offer a little levity in court from time to time. Sometimes we just need it.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Remembering Eric J. D'Ercole, 'A Buddy to Everyone'

That ever present smile and the friendly voice of Eric J. D’Ercole, who usually greeted all those he cared about with a friendly, “Hey buddy,” were noticeably absent from the courtrooms and hallways of the Montgomery County Courthouse last week.

But that trademark, “Hey buddy,” greeting still lingered in the air and in the hearts and cherished memories of fellow courthouse workers who were saddened to learn that the 34-year-old popular court clerk passed away unexpectedly on April 10 at his Phoenixville residence.

“I’m almost 55 years old and whenever he saw me he called me ‘Buddy,’ and when he did I felt like a little girl. I’ll miss that,” a tearful Suzanne Hayes, court clerk for Judge R. Stephen Barrett, said a day after learning about D’Ercole’s death.  “He’s the one who would have been here giving us all the hugs we needed today. He would be the one to do it and I’ll forever be grateful for having known him and for having been his ‘buddy.’”
Eric D'Ercole, background, with courthouse friends/ Submitted photo

D’Ercole, husband of Rachel (Rosenberry) D’Ercole, was a graduate of St. Pius X High School and was a retired Army veteran, having served in Bravo Company 1-111th IN. Eric worked as the court clerk for Judge Rhonda Lee Daniele.

Many of Eric’s fellow court clerks gathered last week to share tears and seek comfort in each other as they openly reflected upon the man they considered a friend.

Tamara Herder, court clerk for Judge William R. Carpenter, said she remembers Eric “as the person who did everything, anything for anybody.”

“You never saw a frown on his face. Eric and I did have talks and eat lunch together and we would talk about life. Eric would give his last dime to anybody that he thought needed it more than him,” said Herder, her voice quivering with emotion at times. “He was a wonderful father, son and husband. He loved his family.

“It’s been a sad couple of days at the courthouse,” Herder said as she fought back tears.
Tamara Herder/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.

Colleagues recalled D’Ercole was most proud of his toddler daughter, Eden, and was always sharing photos of his pride and joy that he collected on his cell phone.

“You couldn’t get the smile off his face. It was one of the most exciting events of his life,” Herder recalled. “Everything was with a smile. His term of endearment, everyone was his ‘bud.’ He was one of the most caring men that ever blessed my life as a coworker and a friend.”

Monica Pokorny, currently the court clerk for Judge Todd Eisenberg, knew Eric for about eight years. They often worked together when they were rotating clerks before being assigned permanently to one judge.

“He was amazing and a friend to everyone. When you were around him he made you feel happy. Every time I worked with him, before we’d start the day, he’d say, ‘I’m so excited you’re here, bud. We’re going to have a great day bud.’ Everyone was his ‘bud,’” said Pokorny, whose eyes welled with tears as she spoke about D’Ercole. “He would be so genuinely excited to be working with you and spending the day with you. That’s how he made everybody feel.”
Monica Pokorny/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.

Eric, who enjoyed kayaking in his spare time, began his courthouse career working part-time in the probation department’s satellite office before moving on to be a court clerk.

“He was a very nice man and a great person to work with. I was so glad they hired him,” said Deborah Baron, who runs the satellite probation office.  “As soon as I heard he was a veteran, that was it, he had me hook, line and sinker. I just can’t thank him enough for his service to our country.”

“He was just a bright light,” said Pokorny, who also once worked in the Clerk of Courts Office and who would see D’Ercole on a daily basis while he worked for probation. “In the mundane of the everyday courthouse he was the person that you saw and made you feel happy.”

D’Ercole suffered a leg injury in a traffic accident many years ago and at one time walked with the aid of a cane. His colleagues said he kept a positive attitude despite some obstacles and was excited whenever he reached a milestone in his recovery.
“He never complained,” Pokorny said.

“You never heard Eric complain about anything and he was probably in pain a lot of time,” added Herder. “He never dwelled on it. He never harped on it.”

Hayes recalled a poignant story that exemplified D’Ercole’s caring nature.

“When my father became ill he ended up needing a cane and he never found one he really liked. When I told Eric, Eric went out and bought one just like his for my father. To this day, it’s my father’s favorite cane,” said Hayes, her voice filled with emotion. “You never had to ask Eric for anything, he just went and did.”
Suzanne Hayes/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.

Ronette Johnson, court clerk for Judge Garrett D. Page, became emotional as she remembered Eric’s generosity, recalling a story several years ago when she told Eric she was taking her two son’s camping.

“I didn’t have a clue about camping and Eric said the first thing is you’re going to need some firewood and he said, ‘Don’t worry, I’m going to bring you some firewood,’” Johnson recalled.

The following day D’Ercole pulled his pickup truck next to Johnson’s car in the courthouse parking garage and transferred some logs he had gathered to her car.

“I can only imagine it must have taken him hours to chop those logs. One by one he took logs from his truck and put them in my trunk. I had a trunk full of logs,” Johnson said.
“He said, ‘Hey buddy, this will keep you and your boys warm for the weekend. This is good wood, even if it rains it won’t go out,’” Johnson laughed. “He was right. That fire stayed burning and me and my boys had a great time, looking at that fire. I thanked Eric when I got back.

“That’s just the kind of guy that Eric was. He was concerned about me and my boys staying warm and he knew I didn’t know a thing about camping. He made it a little easier for me. He was so giving,” Johnson added.

Personally, I will remember Eric as someone who always had a friendly word to share as I passed him in a hallway. I never heard him say anything negative about anything.
His kindness and graciousness will continue to live on in the hearts of all who knew him.
In the wake of his absence, I urge you all to celebrate Eric’s life with a memory or two today and bid him safe passage. His courthouse family will never forget him.

“We have lost a good buddy. He was a buddy to everyone,” Johnson said it best, her voice trailing with emotion.

Rest in peace, Eric. You will be missed.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Montco D.A. Making Some Changes

Montgomery County Courthouse/ Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.
Three months after taking office as district attorney in Montgomery County, Kevin R. Steele has begun to make some personnel changes, putting his mark on the office. Courthouse insiders had expected that Steele, who replaced Risa Vetri Ferman as the county’s top law enforcer when she became a county judge in January, would make some changes during the first several months of his term.
Montco D.A. Kevin R. Steele
Mr. Everybody’s Business has learned that Steele announced the personnel changes in a letter distributed last week to his staff and all court officials. According to that letter, the changes are:
Lower Merion Detective Walter Kerr will be hired as a Montgomery County detective and will be assigned to the Major Crimes Unit. Kerr will fill the position opened when Lt. Mike Gilbert retired.
Montgomery County Detective Jeff Koch will be reassigned to the Violent Crime Unit.
Assistant District Attorney Gabriel C. Magee will be promoted to captain of the newly-created Community Prosecution Unit. That position will be focused on certain areas of the county that are particularly plagued by violent crime, according to Steele’s memo that was obtained by Mr. Everybody’s Business. It’s expected that Magee will work closely with community leaders and the police to address crime problems. Magee will keep his current caseload and will be reassigned to Judge Todd Eisenberg’s courtroom where he will be courtroom captain.
Assistant District Attorney Lauren I. McNulty will be reassigned as captain of the Grand Jury Unit. She will keep a select portion of her current caseload and will remain assigned as captain in Judge William R. Carpenter’s courtroom.
Judge Steven T. O'Neill
Assistant District Attorney John N. Gradel, who once handled grand jury matters, will be reassigned to be captain of the Major Crimes Team. Gradel will remain assigned as captain in the courtroom of President Judge William J. Furber Jr.

Assistant District Attorney Alec O’Neill, who previously headed the Domestic Violence Unit, will be reassigned to be captain of the Forfeiture Unit and will keep a select portion of his current caseload.
Assistant District Attorney Lindsay A. O’Brien will be reassigned to be captain of the Domestic Violence Unit and will assume the majority of O’Neill’s caseload. O’Brien will be assigned to Judge Gail A. Weilheimer’s courtroom where she will be courtroom captain.
Judge Gail A. Weilheimer
Assistant District Attorney Laura Adshead will be reassigned as captain of the Firearms Team and will be assigned to Judge Steven T. O’Neill’s courtroom where she will be the courtroom captain.
Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Geiser will be reassigned as captain of the ARD Unit.
Assistant District Attorney Brianna L. Ringwood will be transferred from the Domestic Violence Unit to the Community Prosecution Unit. She will remain assigned to Judge William Carpenter’s courtroom.
Assistant District Attorney Kathleen McLaughlin will be transferred from the Drug Team to the Firearms Team and will remain assigned to Judge William R. Carpenter’s courtroom.
Judge Garrett D. Page
Assistant District Attorney Benjamin McKenna will be transferred from the Major Crimes Team to the Firearms Team and will remain assigned to Judge Garrett D. Page’s courtroom.
Assistant District Attorney Alexandria T. MacMaster will be transferred from the Economic Crimes Team to the Domestic Violence Unit and will remain assigned to the courtroom of Judge Thomas P. Rogers.
Assistant District Attorney Katelyn Damanis will be transferred from the Major Crimes Team to the Sex Crimes Unit and will be reassigned to Judge William R. Carpenter’s courtroom.
Assistant District Attorney Richard H. Bradbury Jr. will be transferred from the Firearms Team to the Major Crimes Team and will remain assigned to Judge Gary S. Silow’s courtroom.
Assistant District Attorney Samantha L. Thompson will be transferred from the Economic Crimes Team to the Drug Team and will remain assigned to Judge Gail A. Weilheimer’s courtroom.
Assistant District Attorney Douglas Lavenberg will be transferred from the DUI Team to the Drug Team and will be assigned to the courtroom of Judge Garrett D. Page.
Assistant District Attorney Scott Frame will be transferred from the DUI Team to the Economic Crimes Team and will be assigned to Judge Todd Eisenberg’s courtroom.
Judge Todd D. Eisenberg
Assistant District Attorney Matthew Brittenburg will be transferred from the DUI Team to the Major Crimes Team and will be assigned to Judge Gail A. Weilheimer’s courtroom.
Assistant District Attorney Roderick Fancher will be transferred to the Trials Division where he will join the Economic Crimes Team. Fancher will be assigned to Judge Thomas P. Rogers’ courtroom.
Assistant District Attorney Kelli Ann McGinnis will be promoted and will remain assigned to the Juvenile Division.
Assistant District Attorney Timothy B. Collier will be transferred from the Pre-trials Division to the Juvenile Division.
Special Assistant District Attorney Lauren A. Alessi will be hired as an assistant district attorney and will be assigned to the Pre-trials Division.

Congratulations and good luck to all those who are taking on new roles in the District Attorney’s Office.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Some Parting Thoughts as Brad Richman Says Goodbye in Montco

Montgomery County Courthouse
Last week, lawyer Bradford Richman ended his work as a Montgomery County prosecutor to move on to new challenges in the private sector. Many people I interviewed for a story reviewing Richman's noteworthy career spoke about his skills and his being a mentor to them.

On a personal note, I just want to say that Richman was always candid and kind whenever I interviewed him for a story I was covering. He always returned phone calls and he never avoided press questions, whether he lost or won in court. For that, I want to say thanks, Brad. I wish you the best in your future endeavors.

Richman's career spanned more than 30 years and took him from helping to prosecute members of the radical organization MOVE in Philadelphia in the 1980's to launching elder abuse and DUI units in Montgomery County. Much of that career was recounted in a published story last week. But there were many things that I couldn't include there, so as a postscript, here are a few other items I took away from that interview.
Bradford A. Richman / Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.

During his career, Richman, 61, worked for and with some well-known law enforcement and political heavy-hitters in the Philadelphia region.
"I've been extremely fortunate to work with people, who as leaders knew how to affect change," Richman told me.

As a law clerk and then full-fledged prosecutor in the 1970s and 1980s, Richman worked for then Philadelphia District Attorney Ed Rendell, who hired him, and who later became Philly mayor and then governor.

"The time under then DA Rendell was a very exciting time in the office. They were attacking police brutality at the time. He started a domestic violence unit, he started a rape unit. Then DA Rendell really brought vision to that office and he went on to bring vision to the mayor's office and the governor's office too," Richman said. "It was exciting because we were doing new things."
Bradford Richman on left with members of Philadelphia Police Stakeout Unit 1980/ Photo courtesy of Richman

In the late 1990's, Richman went to work for the Philadelphia Police Department under then Mayor Ed Rendell and Police Commissioner John F. Timoney.

"And why that was so exciting, was that was a time in the Philadelphia Police Department again where there was a mandate for cultural changes. Then Mayor Rendell had pretty much given Commissioner Timoney carte blanche to make improvements. It was a very exciting time to be in a bureaucracy like the police department and really have authority to fix things," said Richman, who during that time wrote a police academy curriculum preparing officers for testifying in court.
Bradford Richman 1980/ Photo Courtesy of Richman

"Commissioner Timoney was a visionary, one of the nationally renowned police chiefs in the country. He brought innovation and his way of using people for their strengths," Richman said. "Bureaucracies aren't known for that. Bureaucracies are known for wasting people's strengths, trying to make everyone the same."

In 2000, working for the Philadelphia Police Department, Richman remembers the National Republican Convention coming to town.

"Talk about being in the middle of everything. I got to walk down Broad Street, followed by all these protesters in the middle of July. We walked the whole length and I'm walking with the police commissioner and the head of civil affairs. There were protests and those things have a real energy about them and could explode. I was standing right in the middle of it. That's another amazing experience that I would never have had," Richman recalled.

"This job has really allowed me to be in the middle of some really important issues and some really important events and some really important experiences," Richman said.

In 2005, Richman was hired in Montgomery County by then District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr., who later went on to be a county commissioner.
Bruce L. Castor Jr..

"He brought me on and he was one who saw the kinds of things I was good at; he understood the kinds of things I was not as good at and he let me play to my strengths, which is the sign of a good leader, a good manager of people," said Richman, recalling Castor.

When Castor left as district attorney Richman then went to work for Risa Vetri Ferman who took over as the county's top law enforcer in 2008.

"She's an extraordinary public figure. I was so impressed by her in so many ways in her handling of so many different things. She was also very, very skilled at recognizing people's strengths and letting people flourish in the areas that they're strong in," said Richman, praising Ferman.

Montgomery County Judge Risa Vetri Ferman/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.
"And I think she recognized that at my age, and this office does not get a lot of lawyers who stay at my age, unfortunately, because of the pay scale, that I was in a good position to mentor younger DAs. And I think that she recognized that with my commitment on the issue of teen driving and DUI and my commitment to victims that I think she realized that this would be a good opportunity for a DUI unit and for me to work closely with the young lawyers and help them hone their skills," Richman said.

In January, Ferman was installed as a county judge and Kevin R. Steele, who spent eight years as first assistant district attorney, ascended to the district attorney's seat.

"Kevin, I think, is going to be a great DA. He certainly was an integral part of the last eight years and I think the last eight years were great DA years in the office and he's going to pick that ball up now under his own administration and take it to new places," Richman said.
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele

"Part of me is sorry that I'm not here to help him to do what he thinks I can do to help his efforts, and part of me thinks I'm an old man and he needs a bunch of young DAs that are just starting out, at earlier stages of their careers, ready to tackle full steam the challenges that he wants to take on," Richman added. "I have real high expectations of him. I think he's going to be a spectacular DA. The office and the county are in great hands with him."

Richman once flirted with the idea of going into defense work, wanting to be the next "Clarence Darrow." But working the MOVE cases changed his mind, he wanted to support law enforcement, "no question," he said. One thing is evident, Richman has enormous respect for law enforcement.

Bradford A. Richman / Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.
"Meeting these officers...we'd sit in my office, in the prep room, and they're funny guys, laughing, playing practical jokes on each other. They're genuine, real guys, guys you'd actually like to go out and have a beer with or go to a ballgame. And then at the turn of a switch these guys are in flak vests, doing barricaded man situations, walking into gunfire, doing dramatic rescues. They're just incredible human beings.  They're just ordinary people who find themselves in these tremendous situations and rise to the occasion and protect us," Richman said.

Brad, thank you for your public service. It's time to have that beer and take in that ballgame. Enjoy, you deserve it.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Jurors, Beware the World You're About to Enter

Mr. Everybody’s Business has concluded that being summoned as a juror for a criminal trial sure must be an enlightening experience for many of those called for duty. As a juror, one is exposed to the underbelly of society at times and jurors get a glimpse into the lives of others like they’ve never had before.
Montgomery County Courthouse 

After jury duty, perhaps many wish they hadn’t had that glimpse. I always say, “You can’t make this stuff up” and “It’s like nothing on television.”

There is a legal rule that defendants are entitled to a jury of their peers. Sometimes, I sit there in court, looking at the wide-eyed reactions of jurors to a witness’ statement and I think, “Wait a minute, these jurors don’t travel in the same circles as the defendant or the witnesses; how could they be peers?”

For example, at a trial last month before Judge Todd Eisenberg a man accused of sexual assault took the stand in his own defense and claimed to jurors he liked to play a game called “Follow the Porn,” during which he and his then girlfriend, the victim, would re-enact what they viewed in a pornographic video, implying he didn’t commit sexual assault.

I can only imagine what jurors were thinking. Perhaps, “Did I really just hear that said in public?” or “Too much information!” Incidentally, he was convicted.

During a trial before Judge Gail A. Weilheimer, jurors received an education on how to make a cocktail that has a very risqué name.  

One female who witnessed an alleged shooting testified she had been out at local clubs and had been drinking. Her drink of choice she said was “Red-headed Sluts.” She proudly proceeded to inform jurors it’s concocted with “Jagermeister,” peach-flavored schnapps and cranberry juice.

“What is that?” defense lawyer Benjamin Cooper pondered to jurors during his closing argument. “It didn’t sound too cool to me.”

Ditto, Mr. Cooper. Ditto.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Deputies Raise Awareness by Rockin Some Socks

Some Montgomery County sheriff’s deputies were sporting some colorful, outrageously mismatched socks under their uniforms on Monday and it was all for a good cause.
Montgomery County Sheriff's Department staffers participate in "Rock Your Socks" campaign. From left, Cpl. Daniel Nedzwecky, Deputy Carleen "Niki" Burns, Deputy Kayla Lochner-Franz, Sgt. Joanne Plasterer, and department spokeswoman Teresa Harris/Photo courtesy Montco Sheriff's Department
It wasn’t a fashion statement but more about raising awareness of Down syndrome, a genetic chromosomal disorder, during World Down Syndrome Day and the “Rock Your Socks” 2016 campaign. Teresa Harris, spokeswoman for the sheriff’s department, said the idea to participate came from Deputy Kayla M. Lochner-Franz whose uncle had the syndrome.
Montco Deputy Sheriff Kayla Lochner/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.
“I think, in general, the sheriff’s office is very open to employees who want to support organizations that represent people in need,” Harris said. “It’s a good thing.”
Lochner-Franz said she was inspired to get involved with the national campaign in memory of her uncle, Mike, who passed away at 51 years old. She said the campaign urges people to find creative ways to advocate for the rights of those with Down syndrome and to celebrate the wonderful things about people with the syndrome.

“He was one of my best uncles. He was always fun to be around, always happy,” Lochner-Franz recalled. “I have such a passion, and so does my family, to bring awareness of Down syndrome.”
Montco deputy Rockin Some Socks/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.
More than a dozen deputies participated in the “Rock Your Socks” campaign and they had to contribute to a Down syndrome charity in order to get permission to don their colorful socks. Lochner-Franz said about $55 was raised to support a local Down syndrome charity.

World Down Syndrome Day is held on the 21st day of the third month, which signifies the uniqueness of the triplication of the 21st chromosome, which leads to Down syndrome, according to the Down Syndrome Association of Delaware.
Kudos to Kayla Lochner for suggesting the idea and to all those deputies who participated in the event. Your dedication to and support of a worthy cause was appreciated and didn't go unnoticed.
Photo Courtesy Montgomery County Sheriff's Department