Prosecutors: Westmoreland judge should release juror names in Held case, as Trib asked
In a legal argument filed with the Pennsylvania Superior Court, state prosecutors contend a judge erred when he declined to immediately make public the names of jurors in the December public corruption trial of Westmoreland County Sheriff Jonathan Held.
The Tribune-Review appealed a ruling from senior Common Pleas Judge Timothy Creany, who presided over the case that ended in a mistrial, in which he rejected a request to publicly release the juror names.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office said it supports the Trib’s position and argued Creany’s ruling to withhold juror names until after a retrial against the two-term Republican sheriff was unreasonable and misapplied the law.
“The trial court’s well-intentioned desire to protect Jonathan Held’s constitutional right to a fair retrial on his criminal charges is laudable,” prosecutors wrote.
However, the prosecution said, waiting until after Held’s case is completely resolved could take years and won’t adequately ensure jurors in a potential second trial would not be influenced by the ongoing media attention focused on the first group of jurors, which could not reach a unanimous verdict.
Jurors in December initially returned a guilty verdict on counts of conflict of interest and theft. During individual polling by the judge, one member changed his vote. Creany ordered the jury to continue its deliberations and eventually declared a mistrial.
Prosecutors are seeking a second trial for Held. That is on hold as the Superior Court considers an appeal filed by Held’s defense lawyers that seeks to have the case dismissed.
Held, who is seeking a third term, has denied allegations he used public resources and sheriff’s department employees for his election bid in 2015. Prosecutors contend Held directed staffers to perform campaign-related duties and to use county computers and other equipment for campaign purposes.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .