An Armstrong County judge threw out drug charges against a Ford City man, saying prosecutors took too long to bring the case to trial.
Matthew Cani, 44, was facing six felony and four misdemeanor drug charges after police said he sold drugs to a confidential informant in May 2018. The charges were filed by some members of the county District Attorney’s drug task force known as the Armstrong County Narcotics Enforcement Team or ARMNET.
The motion to dismiss the case was granted earlier this month by Judge J. Chase McClister.
In May, four ARMNET members were placed on administrative leave by District Attorney Katie Charlton. Two of the four were mentioned in the Cani case affidavit.
Charlton said an unnamed investigative entity continues to probe about $300 in unaccounted-for money in a drug case unrelated to the Cani charges.
Charlton said ARMNET continues to operate under the direction of Eric Petroskey, a retired state trooper, and cases “continue to be filed under his supervision.”
Charlton wouldn’t comment if the involvement of two ARMNET agents now on leave in the Cani case caused any delay.
She said her office was “under the belief that the defendant (Cani) was going to accept a plea agreement, which was the reason for listing the case for plea. I disagree this was a case for dismissal and my office argued against the same; however, as always, I respect Judge McClister and his decision in the case.”
McClister was out of the court on Monday and not available to comment.
In approving the motion, McClister ruled the Cani case was 43 days past the 365-day limit in which trial should have begun.
In the ruling, the judge said the speedy trial rule has a dual purpose of “both protecting a defendant’s constitutional speedy trial rights and protecting society’s right to effective prosecution of criminal cases.”
McClister said in his ruling he saw no circumstances beyond the control of the district attorney’s office that delayed Cani’s prosecution.
Court records show delays in Cani’s case were requested and granted for both the prosecution and defense. In fact, it was defense attorney Chuck Pascal who filed a motion to reschedule Cani’s trial from June 10. Trial was rescheduled to July 10 but the motion to dismiss was filed on June 7.
Pascal wasn’t available for comment.