Monday, June 27, 2016

Montco Prosecutor Kristen Feden Honored by Local Magazine

Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Kristen Feden is known for being tough in court and yet many consider her to be one of the most likable prosecutors to grace the halls of the courthouse. She greets everyone with a smile and always seems to have a kind word. Her laugh is infectious.

Lately, she’s had even more to smile about.
Montco Asst. D.A. Kristen Feden/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.

Feden, who has been a prosecutor since 2012, was honored in the Philadelphia Business Journal’s May special edition entitled, “40 Under 40 Living The Dream,” which profiled Philadelphia area movers and shakers under 40 who are dedicated to their careers and communities.

“It definitely caught me off guard. I was very surprised but I was ecstatic when I received it,” Feden, who is captain of the district attorney’s elder abuse unit and is a member of the sex crimes prosecution division, told me recently. “It was one of the highest honors I’ve received.”

The popular business publication featured Feden, of Abington, on its cover and a profile of Feden was included in the inside pages.

“I was extremely excited. It was such a great honor because being recognized as a public servant by a business journal shows that even the business world recognizes, respects and honors public servants, including prosecutors, whose sole job is to keep the community safe,” said Feden, who was a law clerk for Judge Garrett D. Page before being hired as a prosecutor.

Kristen Feden pages through Philadelphia Business Journal
Feden, a graduate of Temple University Beasley School of Law, has prosecuted many sex crime cases. 

She recently was assigned to assist District Attorney Kevin R. Steele in the prosecution of entertainer Bill Cosby, who is accused of sexually assaulting a woman at his Cheltenham home in 2004. 

It’s the highest profile case to ever hit the local courthouse.

You can bet that all eyes will continue to be on Feden as the Cosby case winds its way through the court system this year.

Feden’s coworkers said her being recognized by the Philadelphia Business Journal was well-deserved.

“I was very ecstatic to hear that she was nominated. She is a hardworking individual. She cares deeply about her cases and the victims that are involved and she’s a fantastic prosecutor. So I was not surprised that she was nominated and I’m very excited for her,” said colleague Assistant District Attorney Sophia Polites.

Feden, who is married to Nicholas Feden and is the mother of two young boys, Nicholas Jr. and Ethan, who she calls her “beautiful angels,” said she shares the honor with her colleagues.

“I let them know this was an honor that I shared with all of them as a public servant because all of them have helped me to achieve this,” Feden said humbly. “It wasn’t just an honor for me, it was an honor I share with the office as a whole and my fellow prosecutors.”
Kristen Feden proudly displays Philadelphia Business Journal that honored her on front page/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.

So if you see Feden in the courthouse hallways congratulate her for being recognized by the Philadelphia Business Journal.

Mr. Everybody’s Business also says, congratulations, Kristen!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Stan Sarnocinski Participates in Flag Day Ceremony

On June 14, Stan Sarnocinski Jr., who works for the county's purchasing department as supply room supervisor, participated in an annual Flag Day ceremony held at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

“I was proud and I was very happy to do this and very honored to be able to be there,” Sarnocinski said when I talked to him this week after his participation in the event.

Stan Sarnocinski Jr. (Center) with members of U.S. Army Color Guard/Photo courtesy Sarnocinski

Sarnocinski, currently the national president of the Patriotic Order Sons of America, the oldest patriotic organization in the U.S., founded in 1847, was a guest speaker at the event and was joined on the trip by 38 others from the organization. The U.S. Army also celebrated a birthday on June 14.

“Having a mom and a dad who were both World War II vets, I got to ring the Freedom Bell twice, for my mom and dad,” Sarnocinski said proudly.

The bell also was rung 49 times in remebrance of the victims of last weekend’s shooting spree in Orlando.

Here’s what Sarnocinski had to say when he spoke to the audience at the ceremony:

“As National president of the Patriotic Order Sons of America, I am honored to be here in Philadelphia today to help celebrate Flag Day. I also would like to wish the U.S. Army a Happy 241st Birthday. The Patriotic Order Sons of America was founded in 1847 in Philadelphia by Dr. Reynell Coates. The order was instrumental in getting Flag Day made a national holiday. One of our brothers, Francis E. Walter, who was a U.S. congressman, drafted the legislation which was signed on Aug. 3, 1949, by President Harry S. Truman declaring Flag Day fall each year on June 14. Our order has a long history in the Philadelphia area. We helped to save the Betsy Ross House and to bring Admiral Dewey’s flagship, the U.S. Battleship Olympia, to Philadelphia. We also helped to purchase and restore General George Washington’s Headquarters in Valley Forge. The order is glad to be able to present these American Flags to Independence Hall and the U.S. Park Service again this year. Thank you.”

Flag Day at Independence Hall/Photo courtesy Stan Sarnocinski
Members of the Order presented the superintendent at Independence Hall with a photograph of President Harry S. Truman in 1949 signing legislation that earmarked June 14 as Flag Day. 

The Order has also donated flags to fly at Independence Hall and at Valley Forge National Historical Park for over 60 years, according to Sarnocinski.

At the conclusion of the ceremony members of an Army paratrooper squad parachuted with giant American Flags.
“That was so impressive,” Sarnocinski recalled.

Sarnocinski is known for displaying patriotism year round. As a member of the Patriotic Order Sons of America, Washington Camp 523 of Eagleville, he has taken part in numerous solemn ceremonies retiring hundreds of tattered and torn American flags. Many of the flags are collected at the county courthouse in a special flag drop-off box that Sarnocinski was instrumental in securing.

The Order also has sponsored flag retirement boxes at the following locations: Washington Memorial Chapel in Valley Forge National Historical Park; the Lower Salford Township building; Ace Hardware, Route 63, Harleysville; the 4-H Club along Route 113 in Creamery; the Lowe’s store on Egypt Road, Oaks; the Montgomery Township building along Stump Road in Montgomeryville; the American Legion Post 688, Route 30, in Wayne, Chester County; and at the organization’s state office along Route 61 in Leesport, Berks County.
Stan Sarnocinski Jr. collecting retired flags/ Mercury Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.

I salute you, Stan, for participating in these very patriotic events!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Sometimes Jurors Bring The Drama to a Courtroom

One thing I have learned after covering courts for more than two decades, jurors are unpredictable and many times they bring their own drama to a courtroom or present unusual requests.

During the trial of a Norristown pastor who was accused of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl, there were moments of tension as the defendant’s supporters and the victim’s family lined the hallways waiting for a verdict. 

When word of a verdict came, everyone piled into Judge Gary Silow’s courtroom, anxious for the announcement.

There’s no more intense time in a courtroom than those moments when everyone is assembling to learn of a verdict, moments filled with an eerie silence. It’s the most nerve-wracking time of a trial.

However, on this particular occasion the drama was suddenly heightened when one of the jurors fainted on his way into the courtroom to announce the verdict. His fellow jurors, those who had already entered the courtroom and had taken their seats, had worried looks on their faces as sheriff’s deputies jumped into action to attend to the ill juror.

Spectators appeared stunned and there were several tense moments during which everyone was wondering if that verdict would ever be announced. 

A few moments later, the juror, recovered from the fainting spell, appeared from a closed door at the rear of the courtroom, ready to take his place with his fellow jurors. The guilty verdict was then announced.

It was the first time that I could recall a juror fainting just before a verdict was about to be recorded. Talk about high anxiety.

Something unusual also occurred during the trial in May of a Pottstown man accused of sexually assaulting a woman on three occasions during a period of time when they dated.

Supporters of both the victim and the defendant and other spectators gathered one morning to hear closing arguments of the lawyers, Assistant District Attorney James Price and defense lawyer Benjamin Cooper.

Suddenly, it became apparent that something was amiss. Word soon leaked that one female juror had lost an article of diamond jewelry during the course of the day and some speculated she wouldn’t be able to concentrate on trial testimony if she was worried about finding her diamond. The proceedings before Judge Thomas P. Rogers suddenly came to standstill.

The jurors were kept secluded in a room behind the courtroom while sheriff’s deputies and others scoured the courtroom looking for the diamond. Some deputies, I was told, even went outside the courthouse to search in areas that the juror had communicated that she had frequented while on a court break.

About 45 minutes later the proceedings got back on track even though the diamond was never found.

During the trial of an accused Abington burglar, jurors apparently had a difficult time reading some of the exhibits that went back with them to the jury room. 

They sent a note to the judge asking if they could have a magnifying glass to read one of the exhibits, specifically phone records that prosecutors claimed linked the defendant to the area of the burglary.

Judge Steven T. O’Neill flat out told the jury “No,” that a magnifying glass wasn’t utilized during the trial and was not part of any exhibit. The jurors shook their heads in agreement, apparently understanding and accepting the judge’s decision. They promptly returned to the jury deliberation room without a magnifying glass and having to rely on their own eyeballs.

It was the first time I could recall jurors asking for a magnifying glass to review an exhibit.