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Court briefs


January 14. 2014 11:47PM

By - rdupuis@civitasmedia.com - (570) 991-6113






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WILKES-BARRE — Counsel for convicted poisoner Helen Galli will have an extra two weeks to prepare post-sentence motions due to a backlog in the Luzerne County Court stenographer’s office, according to court documents.


County Judge Fred Pierantoni in December sentenced Galli to 5 1/2 to 12 years behind bars for pouring antifreeze into a glass of berry Juicy Juice at her Wyoming home and giving it to her son to bring to his girlfriend. A jury in October found Galli guilty of aggravated assault, simple assault and reckless endangerment.


Pierantoni on Tuesday approved a request by defense attorney Al Flora Jr. seeking more time to file after the trial transcript was delayed. That document was supposed to be filed by Dec. 27, according to Flora, but on Thursday the stenographer advised him it would not be ready for another two weeks.


Pierantoni gave Flora two weeks after the transcript is filed to submit any motions. The prosecution raised no objections.


WILKES-BARRE — Wilkes-Barre Township Fire Chief John Yuknavich maintains there was no probable cause for four felony theft charges against him, and evidence in the case was obtained illegally.


“The Commonwealth’s warrant and its seizure was completely indiscriminate and seized all things in the hope of finding something incriminatory,” defense attorney Barry Dyller argued in a brief filed Tuesday in Luzerne County Court.


In charges filed last summer, prosecutors allege that Yuknavich, 50, took more than $40,000 from 2008 through 2011 by bringing $3,500 checks to the Wilkes-Barre City Employee’s Federal Credit Union, where the fire department account — as well as a personal account for Yuknavich — existed, but often depositing only part of the checks, taking some or all of the $3,500 as cash.


He is scheduled to have a Feb. 14 pre-trial hearing before county Judge Michael T. Vough.


In a separate case, Yuknavich was charged in December 2011 with stealing nearly $12,000 from the fire department’s bank account and using the department’s Sam’s Club credit card for personal use. That trial has been continued due to a prosecution appeal, with oral arguments scheduled to be heard before Pennsylvania Superior Court on Jan. 29.


Prosecutors have said the latest charges arose after an Office of Auditor General special investigator found new information while preparing for the now-delayed trial.


Dyller countered that the commonwealth went on a “fishing expedition,” marred by lack of sufficient evidence to support search warrants that were not executed in a timely fashion as required by law, he wrote.


WILKES-BARRE — The judgment against a disgraced former Luzerne County judge has been satisfied, according to documents filed Monday in federal court.


Michael T. Toole was sentenced in April 2011 to 2 1/2 years for his guilty plea to one count of corrupt receipt of a reward for official action and to tax-evasion charges. Toole admitted he accepted free use of a beach house from attorney Harry Cardoni as a reward for appointing a Cardoni-favored arbitrator to hear an uninsured-motorist case. Toole also admitted to underreporting his income by $30,000 in 2006.


Toole spent 19 months at a federal prison in Duluth, Minn., before being released to a Pennsylvania halfway house in December 2012. He was placed under home confinement later that month, and finally released in April of last year under supervised release.


Monday’s filing by U.S. Attorney Peter J. Smith signifies that the judgment against Toole, which included a $5,000 fine and $200 special assessment fee, has been met.


Toole was among more than 30 area residents, including two other county judges and a county commissioner, charged as part of a federal corruption probe that began in 2009. Toole served as a judge for six years before he resigned shortly before charges were filed.




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