Appeals court: Judge should not have barred evidence regarding Hempfield rape allegation
A Pennsylvania appeals court on Wednesday overturned a ruling issued earlier this year that barred key evidence in a pending rape case against a Hempfield man.
In January, Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge Tim Krieger ruled prosecutors could use statements the alleged victim gave to Greensburg authorities after she appeared at the police station. Police said the woman was nearly undressed, bloodied and “shaky” when she claimed she was sexually and physically assaulted by 36-year-old Harold Franks in October 2017.
The woman contended she and Franks argued and that he assaulted her, dragged her into a bedroom and forced her to perform a sex act before he committed rape.
She later claimed she was drunk, was never raped or assaulted by Franks and that the sexual activity was consensual.
Westmoreland County prosecutors said they would continue to prosecute the case against Franks without the testimony from his would-be accuser. The case would be based on testimony from police and medical personnel who treated the woman, prosecutors said.
Krieger ruled police improperly questioned Frank’s accuser when she described the circumstances of the attack and that her statements to investigators could not be used at his trial.
On Wednesday, a three-judge Superior Court panel in a 22-page opinion ruled Krieger abused his discretion when he disallowed the testimony from police and barred prosecutors from introducing evidence of prior bad acts they said Franks committed against the same woman.
Earlier this year Franks pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of simple assault, was sentenced by Common Pleas Court Judge Rita Hathaway to serve 9 to 23 months in jail, and was paroled after he was given credit for the 251 days he previously spent behind bars.
Prosecutors dismissed more serious sexual assault and strangulation charges against Franks in connection with that June 2018 incident.
As a result of Wednesday’s appeals court ruling, Franks still faces charges of rape, strangulation and other offenses in connection with the 2017 incident.
Franks did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday regarding the decision.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .