WILKES-BARRE — An attorney defending Wilkes-Barre Township Fire Chief John Paul Yuknavich on theft charges is opposing a request by prosecutors for another judge to preside over the trial.
In a 20-page response, attorney Barry Dyller outlined his vigorous attempts to have the case against Yuknavich, 49, dismissed, claiming a continuing pattern of prosecutorial misconduct by Assistant District Attorney Michael Melnick.
Dyller states Melnick missed multiple deadlines to file documents, served illegal subpoenas on holidays when the court was closed and delayed scheduling the trial within one year of Yuknavich being charged.
Judge Joseph Sklarosky Jr. has denied Dyller’s requests to dismiss the case.
Prosecutors last week filed a petition seeking to have Sklarosky remove himself from presiding over the trial, alleging the judge made a statement that the prosecution “doesn’t have a case.”
During a theatrical pretrial hearing on Feb. 13, Sklarosky prohibited Melnick from using 15 bounced checks as evidence against Yuknavich.
The ruling turned into verbal taunting between Sklarosky and Melnick that continued the next day, Feb. 14, when Melnick made reference to an early January dinner attended by Sklarosky and Dyller. Sklarosky held Melnick in contempt of court and threatened to jail the prosecutor, an order that is on hold due to an appeal to the state Superior Court.
In Dyller’s response, he wrote about “The Judicial Dinner,” noting it was attended by six other judges and their spouses. An assistant district attorney sat at an adjacent table, and only pleasantries were exchanged, Dyller noted.
“This dinner between colleagues on the bench and their spouses was no secret and was known to the district attorney’s office,” Dyller wrote in his response.
He said the dinner in early January is no different than other social events attended by judges and attorneys.