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  • Court Disallows Drugs Found In Warrantless Search
    Criminal Defense

    The decision was a victory for individual privacy rights which the state Supreme Court has been expanding in recent years.

    Drug evidence seized by state troopers during a traffic stop in Lackawanna County is inadmissible, the state Superior Court ruled in a decision that explores how far police may go in warrantless searches of automobiles.

    A panel of judges ruled that 78 grams of marijuana found in a car engine cannot be used as evidence in the case.

    The decision was a victory for individual privacy rights, which the state Supreme Court has been expanding in recent years.

    The Superior Court judges ruled police need a warrant before they can search all areas of a car unless there is both probable cause and immediate action, such as a public safety concern or the chance the suspect might flee or destroy criminal evidence.

    In making its decision, the appeals court looked at what constitutes probable cause and urgent circumstances.

    The defendant’s attorney, Patrick M. Rogan, had requested the evidence be suppressed, and the judge granted the motion

    The Assistant District Attorney appealed, argued there was sufficient probable cause that the car contained evidence, therefore making a warrantless search valid. The prosecution also raised the possibility that weapons might have been in the vehicle and that traffic in the area posed a safety concern.

    The case involves a traffic stop March 31, 1995, on Interstate 81. The state trooper pulled over a dilapidated car after he saw it changing lanes and, as he approached the vehicle, noticed a strong smell of marijuana. The trooper called for backup while questioning the driver and the passenger.

    When backup arrived, officers patted down the men and found what was believed to be a marijuana seed in the defendant’s pocket. The men were handcuffed and were told the officers were going to search the car.
    After the troopers found the 78 grams of marijuana, in one gram bags, in the air ducts in the engine compartment, they charged the men with having drugs for sale, drug possession, criminal conspiracy and possession of drug paraphernalia.

    Attorney Rogan had questioned whether the marijuana odor and seed were probable cause to obtain a warrant to search the entire car if one had been sought. The Assistant District Attorney had contented a magistrate would have authorized police to act.

    But the Superior Court judges found nothing to indicate any urgent circumstances requiring a warrantless search. The troopers had control of the vehicle and the suspects were handcuffed and moved away from the car, the opinion said. Troopers also had found no contraband in the trunk or passenger compartments.
    “Therefore, even though probable cause existed, a warrantless search of the vehicle was unreasonable,” the panel wrote.

    The court also specifically addressed the prosecution’s argument that traffic posed a safety concern and made a warrantless search necessary. Under the scenario, the judges said, any car that is stopped on the side of a busy highway would be subject to a full search.

    “We are not willing to create such a rule,” they wrote.

  • Not Guilty
    Hill Man Acquitted Of Burglary

    The jury found the defendant innocent of burglary in making its decision. The judge earlier had reduced a charge of criminal mischief to a summary offense because the Commonwealth failed to present evidence of damage.

    The arrest received some notoriety because it was made by the Scranton police chief and deputy chief, who were driving nearby when the alarm came in. They took the defendant into custody at gunpoint, although he offered no resistance.

    The defendant, represented at trial by attorney Patrick M. Rogan, claimed he went into the building because he had no place to stay on that winter night. He had allegedly broken a window to enter the building.

    The assistant district attorney argued the defendant had broken into the building to see what he could steal. He noted that a small computer was discovered moved from the building was secured.

  • Not Guilty
    Jury Acquits Taylor Man Of Drunk-Driving Charge

    Police officer concedes he did not see car moving but insists he saw the defendant making a motion, as if turning off the ignition.

    Confusion over whether a Taylor man was actually the driver of a car at the time he was arrested for drunken driving led to his acquittal Thursday in Lackawanna County Court.

    blood test placed the defendant over the legal limit for driving a car. Two Scranton police officers testified that the defendant, who was suffering from a head injury, admitted to them and a nurse that he had driven the car. One of the investigating officers, under cross-examination by attorney Patrick M. Rogan, conceded that he never saw the car move in the parking lot, but insisted that he saw the defendant making the “motion of someone turning off the ignition” of a car.

    The jury asked the judge about whether being behind the wheel and even turning off the ignition of a car while intoxicated proves drunken driving. When the judge answered no, they quickly returned the not-guilty verdict.

  • Acquittal - Jury Deliberated 9 Hours Over 2 Days
    Man Acquitted of Kidnapping, Raping Ex-Fiancée

    Accused of kidnapping and raping his ex-fiancée at knife point, an Archbald man was acquitted of all charges Friday by a Lackawanna County jury.

    After more than seven months behind bars because he could not make bail, the defendant walked out of the Lackawanna County Prison on Friday afternoon a free man.

    “No! No! No!” his accuser cried as she slumped over in the courtroom’s gallery as the verdict was read. The assistant district attorney took the sobbing 23-year-old Olyphant woman by the arm and led her from the courtroom. Her family followed.

    “There may be some who obviously disagree with your verdict,” the judge told the jury, his rich baritone competing with the screams and cries of the woman in the hallway. “Your job is not to be popular. Your job is to follow the law.”

    The woman’s father had to be restrained when he tried to re-enter the courtroom. The assistant district attorney wiped tears from her eyes as she left the courtroom.

    The seven-man, five-woman jury deliberated nine hours over Thursday and Friday before reaching its verdict.
    The woman’s version was that the defendant walked into her unlocked home uninvited, kidnapped her at knifepoint, made her drive to his apartment, and raped her.

    A knife with a 9-inch blade and a brass-knuckle handle matching the woman’s description was found in the defendant’s car.

    “My client was falsely accused,” his lawyer, Patrick M. Rogan, said afterward. “I’m happy for my client. He deserves his liberty.”

  • Jury Acquitted
    Man Fined For DUI

    It was the fourth time the man was on trial on drunk driving charges, attorneys for both sides said. He was also on trial in 1992 for an assault on his mother, a prosecutor said.

    The man will have to pay a $100 fine for disorderly conduct but won’t serve time or spend any more money on restitution for a drunk driving charge. The defendant beat the DUI charges in front of a six-man, six-woman jury Wednesday in Lackawanna County Court, but the judge fined him for the misdemeanor not included in the trial.

    It was the fourth time the defendant was on trial on drunken driving charges, attorneys for both sides said. He was also on trial in 1992 for an assault on his mother, prosecutors said.

    The defendant was arrested for drunk driving last May after a Scott Township police officer said he watched the defendant make a wide turn onto Route 107 in the Heart Lake Section of the township.

    The officer said that he observed the wide turn from Route 247, saw the car stop and watched the driver turn off the lights and get out to open the hood of the car.

    The defendant admitted he’d had a shot and a beer at a nearby bar. Defense attorney Patrick M. Rogan said the jury acquitted the man because the state didn’t prove the drunk driving charges in the case.

  • DUI Charged Dismissed
    Marijuana Conviction Enables Man To Beat DUI Rap

    A charge of drunken driving filed against a West Scranton man was dismissed Wednesday by a Lackawanna County judge because the man had already been prosecuted for possession of marijuana stemming from the same incident.

    The judge ruled that the defendant would be facing double jeopardy if a trial was allowed to start because the two counts were related.

    The defendant was arrested after a one-car accident in the 700 block of South Keyser Avenue. His car had left the roadway during the early morning hours, struck a utility pole, rolled down an embankment and came to rest against a concrete support. The defendant was standing on the road, but one of his two passengers was trapped in the car, when police arrived.

    Police searched the defendant and found a small amount of marijuana. They also asked him to take a blood-alcohol test to determine if he was over the legal limit. The defendant refused.

    The Lackawanna County District Attorney’s office decided to initially prosecute the defendant for the marijuana. He pleaded guilty and was placed on probation. Attorney Patrick M. Rogan filed a motion just before the trial on the DUI charge was to begin arguing that prosecuting the defendant further for what happened would amount to double jeopardy since all charges should have been tried at the same time.

  • Prosecutor Doesn’t Find Justice In Domestic-Violence Sentence
    Criminal Defense

    A Lackawanna County judge Thursday said an assistant district attorney who specializes in domestic-violence cases “came close to the edge of crossing from prosecution to persecution” as she fought to have a Taylor man jailed.

    The rebuke to the assistant district attorney came during a sentencing hearing at which she told the judge that both she and the victim in the case “didn’t find justice” in his decision, which absolved the defendant of felony charges.

    The subject of the pointed exchange was a part-time borough police officer when he entered the home of his girlfriend and assaulted her. The girl suffered minor injuries, according to the testimony.

    Attorney Patrick M. Rogan, the defendant’s counsel, said he thought his client already had “been held to a higher standard” because of his former status as a police officer. He said he did not think it was fair for that to continue.

    What happened during the incident was filled with questions of degrees. Attorney Rogan conceded the police officer’s actions were stupid but maintained that they were not enough to warrant completely ruining his life.

  • Accusations Overturned
    Three Men Sued By Society Claim They Were Defamed

    Three Mid-valley men fired a response back to Jessup’s St. Ubaldo Society on Tuesday, claiming that the society has defamed them by accusing them of stealing and claiming ownership of one of the three statues used in the annual St. Ubaldo Day Festival held every Memorial Day Weekend.

    Attorney Patrick M. Rogan filed his defendants’ answer Tuesday in response to the lawsuit. The society sued the three men and wanted Lackawanna County Court to declare the society as the sole owner of the 400 pound St. Anthony statue used in the annual “Race of the Saints.”

    The three men accused of claiming that they, and not the society, own the statue are insulted by the allegations, Mr. Rogan said after he filed the legal brief.

    “Associates of the plaintiff began making bizarre, outrageous, baseless and unfounded allegations,” Mr. Rogan wrote in the response on behalf of his clients. “The defendants, never, ever raised false claims, or any other claims, of ownership with respect to the items of personal property referred to in the complaint. They have too much respect for the St. Ubaldo festivities, and for the saints, to do so.”

    Mr. Rogan also mailed a letter to the lawyers of the society demanding a retraction of the complaint and a written apology.

    “Be assured that if he does not then we will pursue all legal remedies,” Mr. Rogan wrote. “And we will make every effort to hold him personally liable for damages. No one may hide behind a corporate veil while willfully acting to harm another person’s reputation.”

  • Three Mid-valley men fired a response back to Jessup’s St. Ubaldo Society on Tuesday, claiming that the society has defamed them
    Criminal Defense

    Five Dallas High School students were charged Wednesday with vandalizing Lake-Lehman High School’s football field and track.

    The vandalism occurred on November 3, the night before the Dallas-Lake-Lehman football game.
    The students were accused of dousing the $1.2 million field and track with blue paint.

    Lake-Lehman officials have said the damages to the field could cost as much as $70,000 to fix, but there is no figure listed in the police affidavit regarding the damage.

    Attorney Patrick M. Rogan, who is representing one of the students, said the school district has dramatically exaggerated the damage costs.

    “Seventy thousand dollars is nothing less than preposterous and I think the whole affair is misguided,” Rogan said. “There’s something really wrong when adults say there is an exorbitant amount of damages when all reasonable people know that is not true.”

    “If someone puts paint on my sidewalk, then I’m not going to say you owe me $300,000 for the house,” he said. “They want to tear it up and replace it. You’re talking about some paint on a track.”
    Rogan said the students “are by all accounts, without exception, good kids” who “probably got a little too exuberant” with a prank. Rogan said such pranks have gone on for years.

    “I think it’s a shame that they would think this rises to criminal activity,” said Rogan.