Appeals court: Judge should not have barred evidence regarding Hempfield rape allegation |

Appeals court: Judge should not have barred evidence regarding Hempfield rape allegation

Rich Cholodofsky

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 .

Categories: Local | Westmoreland
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.