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Selection begins Dec. 11 for Fayette grand jury

| Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 2:54 p.m.

Jury selection for a countywide investigating grand jury in Fayette County will begin in December.

President Judge Gerald R. Solomon has ordered that 300 people be called as prospective jurors for what Solomon dubbed “Fayette County Grand Jury No. 2.” They are to appear at 10 a.m. Dec. 11 in Courtroom 3 at the courthouse in Uniontown, according to Solomon's order.

Judge Steve Leskinen, who has been appointed supervisory judge of the grand jury, will preside over the proceedings.

District Attorney Jack Heneks asked Solomon to convene the grand jury to assist with investigations into crimes ranging from election fraud to cold-case homicides.

The jury will consist of 23 grand jurors and seven to 15 alternates who will meet in secret to hear from witnesses called by prosecutors. The jury can recommend that criminal charges be filed, but it will not have the power to indict.

Heneks declined comment on Wednesday.

In October, he said he anticipated convening jurors at least twice monthly over 18 months.

Heneks said he needed a grand jury's powers to subpoena witnesses and grant immunity to help solve a number of alleged crimes, including voter fraud, unsolved homicides, drug trafficking, copper wire thefts, robberies, burglaries, and ATV and auto thefts.

Witnesses who appear before the grand jury will have to testify under oath, Heneks said in October, increasing the likelihood they will provide truthful information police need to further their investigations.

According to a petition Heneks filed in support of convening the grand jury, thieves who steal Verizon's overhead copper wire sell it to scrap yards and use the cash to commit other crimes, including drug trafficking.

The allegations of voter fraud, which include concerns about absentee ballots in Bullskin and signatures on nominating petitions for failed state representative candidate Michael Cavanagh, were brought to his office's attention by the county election board, Heneks said.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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