WILKES-BARRE — Entrapment. Protection-from-abuse orders. Extensive media coverage. Negative comments by newspaper readers and bloggers.
An attorney representing former city towing contractor Leo A. Glodzik III on Wednesday afternoon filed documents arguing that “complete saturation of the Luzerne County community” with news reports on Glodzik’s legal troubles requires a jury for his upcoming theft trial be selected from another county.
“To say the defendant is well known in Luzerne County and is a polarizing figure is self-evident,” defense attorney Joseph Sklarosky Sr. wrote in paperwork supporting the request known as a change of venire.
A change of venire is not the same thing as a change of venue, in which the location of the trial itself would be moved. Venire, derived from a Latin word, refers to the pool of prospective jurors.
In May 2013, Glodzik was charged with two counts of theft after investigation into allegations that he stole $2,100 from a vehicle he towed that was part of a drug arrest in January 2013.
Sklarosky argues the local jury pool would face “conscious and even subconscious conflicts and difficulties” that would hamper their ability to serve faithfully, no matter how hard they tried.
“The defendant respectfully submits that this change of venire is necessary to ensure fundamental fairness for both sides,” he wrote in the proposed motion to be considered by Luzerne County Judge Lesa Gelb.
Efforts to reach Sklarosky on Wednesday afternoon were unsuccessful. A copy of his arguments may be read with this story online at www.timesleader.com.
Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton, meanwhile, told The Times Leader that he was not surprised by repeated allegations, included in the document, that Glodzik was entrapped by federal officials seeking incriminating evidence against himself and city officials.
Leighton said he could not comment, however, due to the ongoing criminal investigation against Glodzik.
Sklarosky’s request and supporting brief were accompanied by dozens of pages filled with copies of reports from local newspapers and blogs about the various issues swirling around Glodzik in recent years, from the theft allegations and mounting tax liens to PFA requests filed by two different women.
Glodzik, 43, is scheduled to appear in county court this morning in connection with the most recent PFA, in which Aleksandra O’ Donohue, 25, claims Glodzik beat her during an altercation at his home last month. There are no charges against Glodzik in that case, but O’Donohue was charged with public drunkenness and disorderly conduct.
President Judge Thomas F. Burke Jr. previously issued a temporary PFA in favor of O’Donohue, and will hold a hearing at 9 a.m. to consider whether a permanent order is appropriate.
Reasons behind request
Sklarosky’s reasons for seeking the venire change include:
• News stories and opinion pieces in local newspapers “generally portray (Glodzik) in a negative light, and coverage of him has been “spectacular in its breadth and intensity.”
• The online versions of such articles “are generally accompanied by a number of comments from readers that generally portray the defendant in a negative light and accuse him of being a criminal.”
• Local bloggers “regularly write defamatory things” about Glodzik, including allegations of corruption and theft. “Not only are these blog postings inflammatory, but they are completely speculative and not based on fact,” Sklarosky wrote.
• As a result of the county’s recent history of corruption, the community “has a pessimistic view of local government and those associated with local government.”
Glodzik’s firm, LAG Towing, had an exclusive, $50,050 annual towing contract with the city. Leighton announced the suspension of that contract the same day Glodzik was charged with theft last year.
Allegations made by Sklarosky during a preliminary hearing last summer were reiterated in Wednesday’s filing.
Sklarosky wrote that the FBI commenced an investigation on LAG’s business practices based on what Task Force Officer Daniel Mimnaugh “deemed to be an overcharge for the tow of his father-in-law’s vehicle.”
“No charges were ever filed against (Glodzik) for bilking customers,” he writes, adding that the FBI and Mimnaugh “then turned their attention to Wilkes-Barre Mayor Thomas Leighton, members of the Wilkes-Barre Police department and other city officials, thinking that the defendant had incriminating information against these people.”
Then, Sklarosky puts it, FBI agent Joseph Noone and Mimnaugh “decided to entrap defendant into cooperating by setting him up and arresting him on bogus theft charges,” saying they “held the alleged theft charges over his head” to extract information on city officials.
“When they were not able to arrest Mayor Leighton or other officials, they then brought the current charges against the defendant,” Sklarosky wrote.
Leighton reminded a reporter Wednesday that such things were said during the August hearing.
While the mayor would not comment further Wednesday night, his office did release a statement last year after questions raised at Glodzik’s hearing. It read: “Attorney Sklarosky’s comments are typical defense tactics to divert attention or responsibility away from the charges against his client. Mayor Leighton and (Police Chief Gerry) Dessoye have not done anything wrong.”