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

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Montco Lawyer Spreads Irish Cheer with Bagpipes

Norristown lawyer James W. Flood continued his St. Patrick’s Day tradition playing bagpipes at the county courthouse, spreading a little Irish cheer along the way, eliciting smiles from those who were fortunate enough to run into him.
James W. Flood/ Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.
Flood, whose law office is located at One East Airy Street, stopped by the courthouse after a day of entertaining students and teachers at various schools in the county while performing with the band “Irish Thunder.”
“We had about 17 pipe and drummers that went to five or six different schools in the Montgomery County area, just walked through the hallways and some of them had cafeterias set up with kids. The kids loved it, they love that kind of stuff,” Flood told me.
Flood then came to the courthouse where during court breaks he performed some tunes for Judge Risa Vetri Ferman and then Judge Steven T. O’Neill.
“Very good, thank you for the serenade,” O’Neill said after one of Flood’s impromptu performances, which also was enjoyed by Senior Judge Joseph Smyth.
Judge Steven T. O'Neill

In past years, it was O’Neill who had a tradition of donning a St. Patrick costume, complete with white beard and shepherd’s staff, espousing Irish cheer as he strolled along the courthouse hallways, sometimes accompanied by a bagpiper. It’s been awhile since O’Neill’s version of St. Patrick has graced these hallways.

Seems like Flood has taken over the tradition, now.
“We’re just proud of our Irish heritage and we want to share. There’s a lot of negative stereotypes about St. Patrick’s Day, people going out and drinking too much and that sort of thing, so we want to spread the positive parts about our culture,” Flood said candidly.
Montco Judge Risa Vetri Ferman with James Flood/Photo Courtesy Risa Ferman
Flood marched with Irish Thunder in two holiday parades last Saturday, including Conshohocken’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. This weekend he plans to march in Allentown’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Montco Judge Risa Vetri Ferman with Flood/Photo Courtesy Risa Ferman
Flood has been playing bagpipes for two years now and became a full-fledged member of Irish Thunder this year.
“The good news, there’s only nine notes,” Flood laughed when he discussed learning how to play bagpipes. “It’s fun. I enjoy it and the people seem to enjoy it.”

Thanks Jim, for celebrating all things Irish, for showing the most Irish spirit at the courthouse and for spreading the joy of the bagpipes.
James Flood/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.
Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone!

OBJECTION! Pajama pants and dirty drawers have got to go!

A few weeks ago, a female visitor to the courthouse wore pajamas when she attended a hearing for a relative in court. It was a onesy no less, and when I tweeted about the fashion faux pas it created quite a stir among Twitter followers.

Many wished I had snapped a photo, they were so astonished. Wished I had had my camera with me.

It wasn’t the first time someone showed up wearing pajama bottoms in county court and I’m sure it won’t be the last. 

Each time, I am flabbergasted that anyone would walk out of the house like that. As I’ve stated here before, decorum seems to have gone by the wayside, along with civility in society, even in a court of law, which should garner respect.

But I think a lower court judge in another county had a great idea.

The Associated Press reported last month that Magisterial District Judge Craig Long of Columbia County posted a sign in his Catawissa Township office that reads, “Pajamas are not appropriate attire for district court.” Long said there is a growing problem of people not dressing appropriately for court and that a code of conduct should be followed.

While Long conceded his reminder isn’t a rule that can be enforced, he hoped it would put thoughts of proper attire into people’s heads before they appear in court, according to the Associated Press story.

I’m left to wonder if any county judges would post such a sign outside their courtrooms and demand people dress appropriately. Time will tell if any local judges have the courage to make such a gutsy move.

But to the credit of some, I have seen a few judges remind witnesses or defendants to pull up their baggy pants, which are hanging below their waists, displaying underwear and even buttocks.

“Sir, please pull up your pants. No one needs to see that,” Judge Wendy Demchick-Alloy, rolling her eyes, told one witness who testified last week at the murder trial of Pottstown killer Richard Collins.
“I’m sorry, your honor,” the man said as he hoisted his pants up before taking his seat in the witness box after everyone caught a glimpse of his underwear.

Attention courthouse visitors, offenders, witnesses – I for one am tired of seeing your dirty drawers and your hind parts.

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Montco Sheriff Seeks To Help Seniors and Domestic Violence Victims

Got an unwanted cell phone? 

Here’s how you can help those who are in urgent need of such a device, in the event they need to contact 911 for help.
Montco Sheriff Sean P. Kilkenny/ Submitted Photo

Montgomery County’s sheriff is reaching out to help domestic violence victims and senior citizens in need by relaunching a cell phone collection and donation program.

“The Sheriff's office has been able to donate over 100 phones to domestic violence and senior programs for their clients,” Kilkenny said recently. “It's important to me that we continue to help people get access to emergency services when needed, by providing this program.”

Residents can drop off unwanted cell phones and chargers in clearly marked recycling containers at the following locations:

Phone Collection Box

- Montgomery County Courthouse, 2 E. Airy St., Norristown, (Main St., and Swede St., security entrances)

- One Montgomery Plaza, 425 Swede St., Norristown

- Montgomery County Youth Center, 540 Port Indian Rd., West Norriton

- Montgomery County Human Services Center, 1430 Dekalb Pike, Norristown

- Eastern Montgomery County Courthouse Annex, 102 N. York Rd., Willow Grove

For further information about the program contact the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office or  visit the department’s website at  

Kudos to the sheriff's department for continuing this important and potentially life saving program.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Montco Battles Heroin on Numerous Fronts

“Heroin is cheap, it’s deadly and it’s impacting the lives of too many families in Montgomery County and across the United States,” District Attorney Kevin R. Steele said recently as he announced the arrest of an East Norriton man who relied on retrofitted car batteries to smuggle heroin from Atlanta to New York City, via Montgomery County.
Seized Heroin and Tools of the Trade/ Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.

Steele also took the opportunity to provide the following statistics regarding the heroin problem in Montgomery County:

-Heroin deaths in the county increased 39 percent in 2014 with 64 reported heroin deaths. Of those, 28 were under 30 years old, 36 were over 30 years old; 18 were female and 46 were male; the youngest to die of a heroin overdose was 19 and the oldest was 70.

-About 54 percent, an all-time high, of all residential drug treatment admissions were for heroin.

-Heroin is cheap, about $10 a bag, according to county detectives who make undercover drug buys.

-One kilo of pure heroin yields about 33,000 doses/bags of pure heroin, but street dealers add cutting agents to increase profits.

Steele also took the opportunity to discuss how the district attorney’s office is working in a variety of ways to combat the heroin problem in the county, saying it employs “a multi-faceted approach” to combating heroin that extends beyond the investigation and prosecution of criminal offenders. Steele said his office is working on several fronts to reduce the drug footprint in Montgomery County.

The office used drug forfeiture funds to buy Naloxone rescue kits, used to reverse the effects of a potentially deadly heroin or opioid overdose, for every police car and EMS vehicle in the county. County police departments have reported saving 16 lives since April 2015, according to Steele.

Montgomery County D.A. Kevin Steele/Courtesy of Steele
Additionally, the office supported the standing order signed by county commissioners that authorized pharmacies to dispense Naloxone doses, which can be administered via nasal spray or auto-injector, to the public.

Steele said there is a direct correlation between prescription pain medication and the surging heroin epidemic, with nearly 80 percent of heroin users reporting that they first became addicted to prescription pain medication. The district attorney’s office has a prescription drug disposal program, administered in concert with county police departments, which collects unwanted, unused and expired medications at 31 permanent locations in the county at no cost to residents. More than 15,000 pounds of prescription medications have been safely collected and disposed of since the program began in 2010, Steele said.

“National studies indicate that teenagers’ intentional abuse of prescription drugs is a growing problem, due in part to the reported perception by young people that prescription drugs are safer than illegal street drugs,” Steele said.

“The District Attorney’s Office works closely with the Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education (NOPE) Task Force to educate teens about the dangers of using prescription drugs prescribed to someone else or abusing their own prescribed medications,” Steele added.

Steele said prosecutors have made presentations about the dangers of prescription drug abuse to middle and high schoolers in eight school districts since the program’s inception in December 2014, reaching more than 16,000 students and 45 parents.
Steele looks at heroin seized during recent bust/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.

Additionally, the county’s drug treatment court, preside over by Judge Steven T. O’Neill, provides intensive substance abuse treatment and related services to offenders while they are under supervision by the justice system. The treatment team approach involves the district attorney, the judge, the public defender, treatment providers and probation officials to achieve life-changing goals, Steele said.