Last updated: August 22. 2014 5:12PM - 627 Views
By - rdupuis@civitasmedia.com

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WILKES-BARRE — The Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office on Friday opposed a motion by Wilkes-Barre Township Fire Chief John Paul Yuknavich to have the case against him dismissed, arguing that speedy trial violations alleged by Yuknavich were not caused by the prosecution.

Yuknavich, 50, of East Northampton Street, Wilkes-Barre Township, was charged by state police on Aug. 7, 2013, with stealing $48,000 from the fire department between 2008 and 2011.

The case is before county Judge Michael T. Vough.

Defense attorney Barry Dyller on Monday filed a motion in Luzerne County Court claiming the District Attorney’s Office has failed to bring his client to trial within one year of his arrest, as required under state law, thus Yuknavich is entitled to dismissal.

According to the response filed Friday by Assistant District Attorney Mary G. Phillips, a period of more than two months earlier this year should not be calculated against the Commonwealth because Yuknavich’s pre-trial motions were not disposed of by the court until April 2.

Phillips wrote that Yuknavich’s pretrial motions were filed on Jan. 14, and that a pre-trial conference on Feb. 14, the court scheduled a motions hearing for March 27. The court rendered its decision on April 2.

Any “delay in time attributable to the judiciary may be excluded from the computation of time,” Phillips wrote, noting that prosecutors maintain the time period from Jan. 14, 2014 to April 2, 2014 should not be counted against the Commonwealth for speedy trial purposes.

“The Commonwealth could not proceed to trial without having the defendant’s pre-trial motions disposed of,” she wrote.

Dyller and prosecutors were in court on Aug. 6, when the trial was to begin, but Assistant District Attorney Michael Melnick was ordered by Judge Michael T. Vough to amend the criminal complaint after finding conflicting dates.

Vough on Aug. 6 rescheduled the trial on Sept. 2. Vough will hear Dyller’s request to dismiss the theft case against Yuknavich on that date.

Yuknavich’s trial had been scheduled twice before, on May 12 and July 21. Each time, Dyller claimed, the trial was continued at the request by the district attorney’s office.

Both delays were prompted by a federal grand jury investigation. No indictments have been issued.

“None of that time is attributed to (Yuknavich),” Dyller wrote of delays, arguing that the DA’s office “has simply not exercised due diligence to try the case within 365 days, nor were there any circumstances occasioning postponement which were somehow beyond” their control.

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