Mercer County DA Miles Karson found guilty on obstruction, oppression charges
A jury spent about two and a half hours deliberating Friday before returning a guilty verdict in Mercer County District Attorney Miles K. Karson’s trial on charges of obstruction, official oppression and hindering prosecution of someone with whom he was romantically linked.
“District Attorney Karson used the power of his office to tip the scales of justice to favor of a romantic partner. It calls into question his ability to be fair and impartial in his decision-making as the lead prosecutor for this county,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro in a news release.
“As Attorney General, I will not allow any person in power to abuse their public office,” Shapiro said. “I am focused on rooting out public corruption and will continue to prosecute anyone who breaks the law – without fear and without favor.”
The jury began deliberating shortly before 11 a.m. and returned with the verdict by 1:30 p.m., Mercer County Court Administrator Pete Morin said.
“We’re of course disappointed in the verdict. We thought we had a decent chance for acquittal and of course we’re disappointed because Miles Karson is a great public servant and this is very damaging to him,” Karson’s attorney, Al Lindsay of Butler, said.
Senior Judge H. William White of Venango County set sentencing for Feb. 13, Morin said.
Karson was found guilty on 10 counts of obstruction and four counts of official oppression. All of the charges are misdemeanors.
Karson’s tenure as district attorney will likely end with the conviction, but Lindsay said a jury’s verdict is “not final judgment” — that comes at sentencing, he said.
“We will try to figure out what’s going to occur in the interim,” Lindsay said.
Karson, 73, of Sharon, was in his first term as district attorney after a four-decade career as a lawyer in Mercer County, about 60 miles north of Pittsburgh. He had worked in private practice in Greenville and also had previous stints as an assistant district attorney.
Originally from McKeesport, Karson, a Vietnam veteran who served as an officer with the 82nd airborne, said during the trial that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and was in the midst of a battle with metastatic prostate cancer, the latter of which left him impotent and without a sex drive.
Prosecutors argued that Karson was romantically involved with 41-year-old admitted heroin addict Tonya Bulboff, formerly of Greenville.
Karson called a police chief and two district judges requesting leniency in criminal cases against Bulboff — namely that she be given unsecured bonds so she could remain out of jail while the cases proceeded.
Karson also defused a domestic disturbance call at his Sharon home when police responded after he and Bulboff had a loud fight.
“Everything’s fine, fellas,” Karson testified he told the police when he came to the door to speak with them.
Karson claimed his relationship with Bulboff revolved around trying to turn her life around, he testified.
“I was going to fix Tonya. I was going to make her better,” Karson explained.
The jury believed the prosecutors in the case, deputy attorneys general Katherine Jordan and Evan Lowry, who said Karson used his position to mete out favorable justice for Bulboff.
Shapiro has pursued other cases of alleged public corruption since becoming attorney general.
In November 2018, he announced felony charges against a former City of Philadelphia official including conflict of interest, tampering with public records and theft.
In October 2018, Shapiro’s office charged two former Bald Eagle Township officials with public corruption and theft in Clinton County, and in the same month also charged a former Johnstown police detective with obstructing the administration of law and hindering the prosecution of a confidential information with whom the detective was having a sexual relationship.
Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-487-7208, [email protected] or via Twitter @TribDavidson.
Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, [email protected] or via Twitter .