WILKES-BARRE — By default, prosecutors are getting what they asked for with accused murderer Dana Ganjeh.
In an order filed Friday by Luzerne County President Judge Richard M. Hughes III, Ganjeh’s preliminary hearing will not be presided over by District Judge James J. Haggerty — but not because prosecutors accused Haggerty of bias.
Hughes reassigned the case to District Judge Thomas Malloy, as Haggerty “will be unavailable in his Magisterial District for an extended period of time.”
In a phone call with a Times Leader reporter, Haggerty confirmed his absence was pre-planned so he could take a continuing education program. Haggerty said Hughes wanted to make sure the process continued, adding that Ganjeh’s case had been “hanging out” for a while.
A hearing for Hughes to hear arguments about the change of venue was cancelled in Hughes’ order Friday afternoon.
Ganjeh, 39, allegedly beat girlfriend Linda Frick to death at a Kingston home Aug. 8. He’s facing an open count of criminal homicide.
Prosecutors recently filed to have the venue of Ganjeh’s preliminary hearing transferred after they claimed Haggerty made comments that suggested he was biased against the state’s case and had already made a determination of Ganjeh’s guilt or innocence.
The initial filing from prosecutors suggests Haggerty asked attorneys to make arguments for why Ganjeh should be denied bail. They argued this was inappropriate as state law prevents bail outright for charges like first-degree murder, which is one of the potential outcomes of his open count of criminal homicide.
They also said Haggerty made comments that suggested he didn’t think prosecutors had a strong case.
However, with Hughes’ order, these arguments are rendered moot.
Court records show Ganjeh is now scheduled to appear before Judge Malloy on Oct. 26.
Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan