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Westmoreland

Westmoreland County sheriff criminal trial to begin in August

Rich Cholodofsky
| Wednesday, May 16, 2018, 2:27 p.m.
Westmoreland County Sheriff Jonathan Held arrives at the Greensburg office of District Judge Chris Flanigan on Feb. 26, 2018. Held is accused of ordering his staff to campaign for him while on duty.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Westmoreland County Sheriff Jonathan Held arrives at the Greensburg office of District Judge Chris Flanigan on Feb. 26, 2018. Held is accused of ordering his staff to campaign for him while on duty.

The public corruption trial of Westmoreland County Sheriff Jonathan Held is scheduled to begin in August.

Held, 43, of Hempfield, pleaded not guilty in Wednesday during a brief hearing and court arraignment before visiting senior Common Pleas Court Judge Timothy Creany from Cambria County.

Held was charged in February with two theft counts and one offense of conflict of interest for allegedly using county resources and staff for the two-term Republican sheriff's re-election efforts. Creany scheduled jury selection to begin Aug. 6.

“We'll be ready,” said defense attorney Ryan Tutera. “We look forward to defending this.”

Held, who earlier in the day was dressed in his sheriff's uniform, appeared in court wearing a dark suit and without his sidearm. He did not speak during the hearing.

Creany read the specific allegations against Held and told him that each theft count charged against him could be graded as either a felony or a misdemeanor. The grading will be based on whether prosecutors can prove the amount of the alleged thefts.

If Held is found guilty of stealing more than $2,000 in county resources, he would face felony offenses. Those carry maximum sentences of up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine, Creany said.

Thefts of less than $2,000 would be graded as misdemeanors and, if convicted, Held could be sentenced to up to five years in prison and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.

The judge said the felony count of conflict of interest charged against Held could result in a maximum five-year prison sentence.

State agents charged Held in February after investigators claimed they found evidence that Held directed on-duty deputies to gather supplies for campaign fundraisers and used county computers to index and keep track of guns, gift cards and other items earmarked for campaign purposes.

Held has denied the allegations and said they were concocted by disgruntled staff.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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