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Prosecutors: Don’t let suspect’s father defend her

March 20. 2013 11:56PM

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WILKES-BARRE – Prosecutors in the case of a woman charged in a fatal hit-and-run accident have asked a judge to prohibit her father, an attorney, from representing her in the case.

Megan Panowicz, 27, was charged in connection with the Aug. 27, 2008, death of Sharon Shaughnessy, who was killed on Wyoming Avenue in Kingston when she reportedly was struck by three vehicles, one of which was allegedly driven by Panowicz, of Forty Fort.

Panowicz’s case had been on appeal with the state Supreme Court, which ruled in January that she would face a felony charge of accident involving death or personal injury.

The case is being prosecuted by the state Attorney General’s Office because Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis had worked with Robert Panowicz before she was elected in 2011.

A pretrial conference was held in county court on March 15, according to court papers filed Wednesday by Deputy Attorney General Clarke Madden. At that hearing before county Senior Judge Charles C. Brown, attorney Robert Panowicz said he intended to represent his daughter at a yet-to-be-scheduled trial, the papers state.

Madden said in court papers that Robert Panowicz is likely to be called by prosecutors to testify in the case, and Madden has asked that he be prohibited from representing his daughter.

It is believed that Megan Panowicz’s defense is that she was not the driver during the hit-and-run incident, Madden wrote.

“Evidence will be (showed) at trial that (Panowicz’s) father, Attorney (Robert) Panowicz, was one of the first people with whom (Megan Panowicz) spoke about the accident,” Madden wrote. “The Commonwealth will likely call (Robert Panowicz) as a … witness on the subject of admissions made by (Megan Panowicz) to him.”

Robert Panowicz is a “necessary witness,” wrote Madden, contending that state law does not allow him to perform defense attorney duties for his daughter.

Madden said in his court filing that Robert Panowicz’s testimony would include his daughter’s “culpability” and would not relate to legal services provided. And, if Robert Panowicz does not represent his daughter at the trial, she will not suffer any hardship because she has been represented by another attorney in the case, Basil Russin, for a long period of time, Madden wrote.

The jury would be unable to tell the difference in Robert Panowicz’s representations between his role as Megan Panowicz’s attorney and her father, Madden wrote.

“The jury will, correctly, presume that (Robert Panowicz’s) presentation is informed by a lifetime of experience with (Megan Panowicz), none of which is evidence,” Madden wrote.

A judge has not scheduled a hearing on the request, and defense attorneys had not immediately responded to Madden’s filing Wednesday.

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