Embattled attorney withdraws from federal cases

June 18th, 2015 3:30 pm

First Posted: 2/19/2014

SCRANTON — An attorney charged along with Hugo Selenski with intimidating prosecution witnesses in a homicide case has withdrawn from representing several defendants facing drug offenses in federal court.

A review of federal court cases indicate Shelly Centini, 38, has withdrawn from defending Freddys Barrera Paulino, 43, of Bronx, N.Y.; Lamar Johnson, age unknown, of Wilkes-Barre; and Terrell Nicholson, age unknown, of Wilkes-Barre.

Last week, Centini filed motions seeking to withdraw from the three separate cases, stating on Jan. 27 she “became ineligible for continuing (Criminal Justice Act) panel membership.”

Defense attorneys can apply to be placed in a pool of lawyers, known as the CJA panel membership, who can be appointed by the court to represent defendants who can’t afford an attorney on their own.

Centini along with Selenski, 40, and private investigator James Sulima, 49, were charged by the state Attorney General’s Office on Jan. 27 with intimidating prosecution witnesses in Selenski’s double-homicide case in Luzerne County.

A state grand jury alleged Centini and Sulima delivered letters written by Selenski to five witnesses at a restaurant in Larksville in July.

Centini has been removed from defending Selenski, who is facing trial in the killings of Michael Kerkowski and Tammy Fassett in May 2002. Selenski’s trial was rescheduled to begin May 19.

Paulino and Lloyd LeBlanc, 44, and Joseph Alvarado-Melendez, age unknown, both from Hazleton, were indicted by a federal grand jury in June on charges they picked up heroin in New York City and sold it in Luzerne County.

Paulino, while Centini represented him, pleaded guilty to unlawful possession with intent to deliver heroin. His sentencing has not been scheduled. Attorney Enid Harris replaced Centini to represent Paulino.

LeBlanc pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute heroin. He was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison.

Alvardo-Melendez is scheduled for trial in federal court on April 14.

Johnson was one of 23 people indicted by a federal grand jury in June with trafficking heroin in Wilkes-Barre, and Nicholson was one of 17 people indicted by a federal grand jury in August 2009 with peddling cocaine and marijuana in the Wyoming Valley. Their cases remain unresolved in federal court.