WILKES-BARRE — Despite a professed willingness by the prosecution to proceed, the trial of Wilkes-Barre Township Fire Chief John Yuknavich on theft charges, scheduled for jury selection Monday, was postponed to August, pending the outcome of a federal grand jury investigation, expected to be completed within a few weeks.
Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough heard brief comments from Yuknavich’s attorney Barry Dyller and Assistant District Attorney Michael Melnick, had the two parties sit while he handled other docket cases and a secretary checked calendar dates, then brought the two sides back to the bench and settled on Aug. 6 for jury selection and Aug. 26 for a trial.
After the rescheduling, Dyller said the delay was prompted by a federal grand jury investigation into Yuknavich that may result in an indictment, and if that happens the commonwealth charges would be dropped. He is accused of stealing more than $48,000 from the fire department between 2008 and 2011.
Melnick said that he was ready to go to trial and would have preferred jury selection begin Monday as scheduled, but that the delay likely means any action by the grand jury would come before the new trial date. “The commonwealth would typically defer to any federal charges.”
This is the second delay prompted by the federal investigation. In May Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis and Dyller confirmed the U.S. Attorney’s office was investigating theft allegations against Yuknavich. He was facing a May 12 trial date on charges he stole more than $48,000 from the fire department between 2008 and 2011.
Six days before that trial date, Salavantis and Melnick asked that the case be continued as a result of the federal investigation. Vough granted the request, setting the trial date for Monday.