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Westmoreland

Westmoreland Sheriff Held will be retried in corruption case

Rich Cholodofsky
| Monday, Dec. 10, 2018, 1:57 p.m.
Westmoreland County Sheriff Jonathan Held (left) and his attorney, Ryan Tutera, address the media following his mistrial.
Rich Cholodofsky
Westmoreland County Sheriff Jonathan Held (left) and his attorney, Ryan Tutera, address the media following his mistrial.

Westmoreland County Sheriff Jonathan Held will stand trial again, the state Attorney General’s Office said Monday.

Held’s public corruption trial ended in a mistrial Friday after jurors could not reach a verdict on two counts filed against the two-term Republican sheriff, who is accused of using department staff members to work on his election campaign while on the clock.

Joe Grace, a spokesman for Attorney General Josh Shapiro, confirmed that Held would be tried again on conflict of interest and theft charges.

Held was not at work Monday.

Defense attorney Ryan Tutera said the attorney general’s decision is not a surprise.

“I contemplated they would retry the case. We will take the same approach as last time,” Tutera said.

Jurors deliberated about six hours Friday after hearing three days of testimony and said they could not reach a unanimous verdict.

Initially, it appeared Held was to be convicted when Senior Judge Timothy Creany read the verdict slip submitted by the jury, which indicated it had found the sheriff guilty of a felony count of conflict of interest and a misdemeanor theft charge. The judge had dismissed one count of theft before the case went to the jury.

Held immediately dropped his head, and his girlfriend ran crying from the courtroom. But as Creany started to ask each juror if that verdict was their own, the outcome changed.

The first five jurors affirmed the verdict. Juror No. 6 rose and immediately expressed hesitation when questioned by the judge. “Not really,” he said when asked if he agreed with the verdict read in court. He attempted to explain that he was “the last hold out.”

Jurors were sent back to continue deliberations. About 30 minutes later, they reported that all 12 could not agree to a verdict. Creany declared a mistrial.

Creany is expected to issue a ruling Monday on whether the names of jurors will be made public. Jurors declined to comment as they left the courthouse Friday.

Tutera and Deputy Attorney General Bobbi Jo Wagner said they previously had experienced a juror changing a verdict in court.

Creany is expected to schedule a hearing this week to determine how and when a retrial will occur, said Pam Neiderhiser, the county’s assistant court administrator.

Held did not testify during the trial, and the defense presented no witnesses on his behalf. Tutera argued to jurors that the case against Held was based on lies by his employees as part of an effort to undermine the sheriff’s department.

Prosecutors claim Held directed uniformed staff to perform campaign activities while on duty. Witnesses said they were directed by the sheriff or his administrative staff to seek donations for campaign fundraisers in 2015 and 2016, and used county phones, computers and cars to complete those tasks.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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