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Top DA mum on grand jury visit

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Friday, Oct. 25, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

HARRISBURG — Fayette County's top prosecutor appeared Thursday morning before a statewide investigating grand jury in Harrisburg.

Jack Heneks declined to comment when he exited the Verizon Tower on Walnut Street in Strawberry Square, near the state capitol. He left the building shortly after Bruce Beemer, chief deputy attorney general.

Heneks arrived at 10:20 a.m, nearly two hours late for his scheduled 8:30 a.m. appearance before the secretive grand jury. When he entered the lobby where witnesses wait to be escorted to the eighth-floor grand jury courtroom, security personnel ushered him into an elevator.

The grand jury heard testimony in September from four others with connections to a drunken-driving case that was initially dismissed against the nephew of another assistant district attorney — but later reopened through the state attorney general's office.

Grand jury proceedings are closed to the public.

Heneks emerged after 1 p.m. and left through a side door.

“No,” Heneks said, when a Tribune-Review reporter asked if he would comment. He declined to confirm whether he had testified and would not speculate on whom the grand jury may be targeting.

Joe Peters, spokesman with the state attorney general's office, would not comment. He said the office's policy “is to neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of an investigation.”

Heneks' appearance follows that of at least two assistant district attorneys who were called to testify before the same grand jury in September.

The attorneys, Doug Sepic and Michelle Kelley, would not comment on their testimony.

Four others called before the grand jury last month — the district judge who dismissed the original case, the prosecuting trooper and two witnesses who testified at a preliminary hearing once the case was reopened — have declined to comment.

District Judge Dwight Shaner of Smock repeatedly has asserted he is not permitted to speak about his testimony.

Under state law, jurors and prosecutors are prohibited from publicly discussing grand jury proceedings. But in most instances, witnesses are free to reveal their testimony, if they so choose.

In the first preliminary hearing on the DUI case, Shaner on Dec. 13, 2011, dismissed drunken-driving charges against Robert Lee Rudnik, 30, of Connellsville. Rudnik's aunt, Linda Cordaro, was the assistant district attorney assigned to prosecute cases at Shaner's office that day. She told the Tribune-Review earlier this year that she recused herself.

Cordaro is one of two candidates in the November election for two seats on the county bench. She is expected to ascend to the bench in January.

Jeremy Davis, a Uniontown attorney who represented Rudnik at the hearing, said in September that the trooper did not have witnesses available to testify, so his request for dismissal was granted.

Rudnik is accused of fleeing when his Dodge Durango hit a mailbox and guide rail on Sept. 14, 2011, on Monarch Road in Dunbar. According to a criminal complaint, a witness told troopers that Rudnik drove away and parked his sport-utility vehicle in front of a nearby residence.

The complaint said a breath test indicated Rudnik's blood-alcohol content was 0.166 percent, twice the legal limit for intoxication in Pennsylvania.

At the direction of state Deputy Attorney General L. Todd Goodwin, Trooper Joseph Ross refiled the charges, and the case was held for trial after a Sept. 9 preliminary hearing before Redstone District Judge Mike Defino.

Defino was assigned to the case when Shaner recused himself for “personal reasons,” according to a letter to President Judge John F. Wagner Jr.

Ross and two witnesses who testified at Rudnik's Sept. 9 preliminary hearing, Thomas Brown and James Glunt, Dunbar Township residents, in September declined to comment about their testimony.

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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