Jury convicts Leo Glodzik III on felony, acquits on misdemeanor

Last updated: May 15. 2014 11:51PM - 8965 Views
By - rdupuis@timesleader.com

LAG Towing owner Leo A. Glodzik III walks back to his trial on Thursday afternoon at the Luzerne Courthouse.
LAG Towing owner Leo A. Glodzik III walks back to his trial on Thursday afternoon at the Luzerne Courthouse.
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WILKES-BARRE — A Luzerne County jury unanimously found Leo A. Glodzik III guilty of theft but not guilty of theft from a motor vehicle.

The verdicts were delivered by a jury of 10 men and two women Thursday afternoon after deliberating for four hours in the theft case against Leo A. Glodzik III.

Glodzik, owner of LAG Towing in Wilkes-Barre, faced allegations he took $2,100 from a vehicle he towed on Jan. 29, 2013, after what he was told had been a drug arrest, and put the money in his pocket.

Prosecutors say Glodzik, 43, then tried to share $1,100 of that money with an undercover trooper under what Glodzik believed was an arrangement they had agreed to days before.

His trial before county Judge Lesa S. Gelb began Tuesday morning, with closing statements Thursday morning.

Assistant District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce said he could not speak to how much time the felony conviction could carry in Glodzik’s case, adding that he will know more after a pre-sentence investigation.

“I’m a little bit surprised by the verdict” was Sanguedolce’s reaction to the split decision.

“Obviously, we’re happy we got a conviction on the felony, but the charges are so similar that we’re a little surprised that he was found not guilty of the misdemeanor,” Sanguedolce said.

Glodzik quickly left the courthouse. Efforts to reach him later Thursday were not successful.

Prosecutors pleased

Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis learned of the verdict during a meeting with The Times Leader Opinion Board.

“Oh, wonderful. I can breathe a sigh of relief now,” was the DA’s immediate reaction.

“I’m very happy for the guilty verdict. First Assistant Sam Sanguedolce did an extraordinary job on this. It wasn’t an easy case,” she said later.

Salavantis also recalled initial concerns about selecting a jury, due to Glodzik’s widespread name recognition and that of his company.

Indeed, defense attorney Joseph Sklarosky Sr. had requested an out-of-town jury, arguing that “saturation” media coverage of Glodzik’s legal troubles — including the theft case, numerous government liens against his business interests and protection-from-abuse orders, one of which he successfully fought off last week — tainted the local jury pool.

But Gelb rejected Sklarosky’s request, and the two sides managed to seat a panel after a full day of jury selection on Monday.

Closing statements

Sklarosky, who began speaking at about 9:40 a.m. Thursday, urged jurors to set aside any bias they might have, and to rely on their recollection of what they heard from the witness chair during the trial, which began Tuesday.

Sklarosky reiterated his contention that state Trooper Daniel Mimnaugh, since retired, and FBI agent Joseph Noone created a plan to entrap Glodzik.

Sanguedolce began offering his much shorter closing statement at 10:38 a.m.

“I can’t recall the last time I heard a defendant take the stand and directly call a member of law enforcement a liar,” Sanguedolce said, referencing Glodzik’s remarks on the stand the previous day.

Sanguedolce suggested to jurors that Glodzik would have them believe that Mimnaugh and “the entire Scranton division of the FBI” lied, and “all engaged in the most elaborate and corrupt ruse in the history of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

Sklarosky closing

“The function of law enforcement is the apprehension of criminals and the prevention of crime,” Sklarosky said. “That function does not include manufacturing crime, and I submit to you that’s exactly what happened in this case.”

Mimnaugh admitted playing a “dirty police officer” when he approached Glodzik about being the exclusive tower for a fictional drug task force he was heading up.

Mimnaugh was, in reality, working with an FBI task force investigating gangs, drugs and other crimes.

But, as Mimnaugh also testified, his first interaction with Glodzik was in December 2012, when the trooper approached the tower in anger about charges LAG levied against Mimnaugh’s father-in-law after his car was towed to LAG’s Carey Avenue garage following a crash.

Glodzik testified he refunded the money as a courtesy, saying he never charges public safety officials or military personnel for towing. But claiming he didn’t have change, Glodzik gave back $400 when the bill was only $350, suggesting Mimnaugh pay the rest back later.

Mimnaugh, who took a business card from LAG, testified the FBI already had a file on complaints about Glodzik’s business practices.

But as Sklarosky said Thursday, the FBI never arrested Glodzik, alleging that it wanted to “squeeze him for information” about Wilkes-Barre city officials.

Sklarosky asked jurors to consider why Glodzik ultimately was charged by a county detective, four months after Mimnaugh and the FBI confronted him at the garage about the $2,100.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I submit that was unusual, because usually the person who makes the arrest is the person who did the investigating,” the defense attorney said.

Sklarosky also asked jurors to consider why Mimnaugh testified at trial but Noone never did, adding that Mimnaugh frequently responded to questions about the probe by saying that Noone would be best positioned to answer.

“Where is Mr. Noone? Mr. Noone was like a devil around holy water. He didn’t want any part of it, because it was Mr. Mimnaugh’s baby,” Sklarosky said.

Sanguedolce closing

Sanguedolce touched on the issue of Noone’s absence.

“This case isn’t about the investigation that’s going on into Wilkes-Barre. This case is a theft,” he said, suggesting Sklarosky was trying to divert jurors’ attention.

The prosecutor told jurors that they should be mindful of differences between what Glodzik said happened and what they heard in recordings presented by the prosecution.

Among examples of that:

• Glodzik testified he told Mimnaugh he could pay Glodzik back the extra $50 from the towing refund by buying him a case of beer or dinner. Yet that is not heard on the recording, which covered their whole conversation that day. As well, Sanguedolce said, Glodzik didn’t know Mimnaugh then, adding it was unlikely he would invite a stranger to dinner in that way.

• Glodzik is heard on a Jan. 29, 2013, tape asking Mimnaugh “What time is it, 11?” Police say that was a reference to the $1,100 Glodzik handed Mimnaugh.

Glodzik testified the reference was part of a Super Bowl conversation the pair were having. Sanguedolce reminded the jury the Super Bowl does not start at 11 a.m., but is a night game.

Regarding the recordings, Sanguedolce said he turned all recordings he had over to the defense as part of discovery.

Sanguedolce also took aim at Glodzik’s contention that the car contained only $2,000 — not $2,100 — and that Glodzik said he knew the threshold marked the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony.

In the end, the jury convicted Glodzik of the theft of $2,100.

Sanguedolce asked jurors to question whether Glodzik and his staff member who counted the money are more reliable than the law enforcement agents who planted it there.

Sanguedolce finished shortly before 11 a.m.

Long afternoon

Jurors twice returned to the courtroom Thursday before rendering a verdict.

First, they had a question regarding the nature of an alleged theft if it took place on the defendant’s own property.

About an hour later, they returned to tell Gelb they were deadlocked. Gelb reminded the panel that any verdict had to be unanimous, and sent the members back to continue deliberating.

Less than 30 minutes later, the jury bell rang again, alerting the court to a verdict, which was read at 4:12 p.m.

Sentencing is set for 9 a.m. July 11.

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