Category: Armstrong County Court House

Superior Court Judges Ready for This Week’s Appearance in Armstrong County

Pennsylvania Superior Court judges will rule on cases at the Armstrong County Courthouse this week. The public is invited to attend.

by Jonathan Weaver

A trio of Pennsylvania Superior Court judges will rule on cases at the Armstrong County Courthouse this week.

Armstrong County Judge James Panchik explained that the Superior Court involves a group of elected judges that hear appeals from Court of Common Pleas dockets from throughout the state.

“The President Judge of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, Judge (Susan Peikes) Gantman and (Armstrong County President) Judge (Kenneth) Valasek agreed to have the panel of three judges – Judge Mary Jane Bowes, Judge Judith Ference Olsen and Judge Victor P. Stabile – sit here in Kittanning,” Judge Panchik said. “This has been in planning for a year.”

According to the Superior Court calendar updated September 3, judges will hear arguments on nearly 50 cases during the two days – including the criminal appeal of Otilio Cosme, of Ford City (who was sentenced to up to three years in jail on charges of involuntary manslaughter during a St. Patrick’s Day fight in Kittanning in 2013), two cases involving Elderton State Bank and another filed by Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Judge Panchik said that cases are usually heard in court rooms in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg or Philadelphia, but this week’s court arguments – which begin at 9:30AM each day in Courtroom 1 – are an opportunity for transparency.

Judges Bowes and Olsen both were in the county last year as part of a legal continuing education course for the Armstrong County Bar Association.

“That really spawned the idea to have arguments here,” Judge Panchik said.

Armstrong County Bar Association President Andrew Sacco, a lawyer at Steiner Law Office in Kittanning, said one of the topics the Superior Court judges explained to the nearly-30 lawyers last year was how to properly file those appeals. He also encouraged local residents to sit in on the court cases this week.

“People see stuff on television (or) read about it in the newspaper, but this is an opportunity to actually see it in action live,” Sacco said.

Judge Olsen – a classmate of Judge Panchik’s from Duquesne University School of Law in 1982 – has also appeared at Armstrong County Republican Committee events earlier this year as she hopes to be elected to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

High school students from Armstrong, West-Shamokin, Freeport, Karns City, Leechburg and Divine Redeemer School in Ford City have all been invited to the proceedings.

“We’re very pleased to open up our courthouse to the Superior Court so they can see Armstrong County and see our courtroom,” Judge Panchik continued. “It’s an opportunity to showcase the county to them and it’s an opportunity for our local residents to see how the courts operate.

Judge Panchik is scheduled for to hear trial arguments both days, but hopes to sit on the Superior Court decisions the morning of September 17.

During Judge Panchik’s eight-year tenure, about 10 pages of criminal court cases have been appealed.

Superior Court judges last sat in the Armstrong County Courthouse in 2000.

Judge J. Frank Graff, a Republican judge from Kittanning, served with the Superior Court in 1930. Judge Graff served more than 57 years on the bench before his death at Armstrong County Memorial Hospital in 1981.

Judge Graff was appointed to the Pennsylvania Superior Court by Gov. John Fisher, but was defeated in the Primary Election later that year by Judge James Drew of Allegheny County.

Judge Drew went on to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

Hearing cases in local counties is not restricted to Armstrong County. Communications Coordinator of the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts in Harrisburg Art Heinz said Superior Court judges heard arguments in Washington County this past April.

Former Adrian Fugitive Sentenced to Prison

Chester E. Croyle, Jr., as seen during his most recent Armstrong County Jail inmate photograph.

An Adrian man who had a nine-hour standoff with police last May has been sentenced to up to a decade behind bars for the crime he was running from.

Chester E. Croyle, Jr. – now 35 – of Adrian, was sentenced by Judge James Panchik yesterday to not less than four but not more than 10 years in jail for first-degree felony statutory sexual assault and third-degree felony endangering the welfare of children.

Both confinement sentences will run concurrently.

Croyle, Jr. pled guilty to both allegations before Judge Panchik in May.

According to the criminal complaint filed by Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Kapustik, Croyle, Jr. was arrested following a February 2014 interview with a minor at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh’s Child Advocacy Center with a trained advocate, when the un-named minor disclosed that while living with Croyle, Jr., they had intercourse on “several occasions”

The crimes took place in both homes within Kittanning Borough and the Village of Adrian in Washington Township.

The mother of the victim verified Croyle, Jr’s residency in the identified homes and that Croyle, Jr. was more than 11 years older than the victim.

Croyle, Jr. had an active bench warrant for a Protection from Abuse violation that led to the standoff with police in May 2014.
At that time, Sheriff Bill Rupert recalled that several tips about Croyle, Jr.’s whereabouts were received, but that he ran from police May 2 and May 12, 2014.

The trailer near the area of 361 Old Reesedale Road was surrounded by local officers beginning at 10:30AM that morning until the State Police Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) was called for assistance.

As of about 4:30PM, SERT officers were attempting to communicate with Croyle, but he was not responding. After failure to follow commands for surrender, tear gas and a skid loader were used inside the residence, prompting Croyle’s surrender.

Shortly after 7:30PM, Armstrong 9-1-1 emergency dispatchers alerted crews that Croyle was apprehended.

Croyle, Jr. also faced charges of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct as a result of the standoff, but no further penalty was imposed.

Drug Offender Arrested in Raid Sentenced to Probation

by Jonathan Weaver

A Manor Township man arrested during a two-day drug raid in the tri-county area was sentenced to probation last week.

Most of those arrested by police officers during the Armstrong and Clarion County raids in December 2014 will be sentenced before judges in the Armstrong County Courthouse in Kittanning. Many others are awaiting pre-sentence investigations to be completed. (KP File Photo)

Armstrong County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Kenneth Valasek sentenced Donald Paul Shaw, 33 of Garretts Run Road, with no less nor more than a year of probation for possession of a controlled substance.

Shaw will also be required to pay applicable court costs, is restricted from further use or possession of illegal substances (monitored through a urinalysis) and must complete 30 hours of community service.

District Attorney Scott Andreassi previously said police units from six teams across Armstrong and Clarion Counties found about 200 bricks of heroin and more than 10,000 stamp bags during the December raids.

County officials saw a 400 percent increase in drug dependency referrals before the raid, and a substantial increase in high school students using heroin.

“No community is immune to the heroin epidemic,” said State Attorney General Kathleen Kane. “Heroin traffickers view rural areas as a goldmine for customers, but we are one step ahead of them. We are pooling our resources and intelligence to fight back and make our communities safer.”

Three of those from Armstrong County arrested were already sentenced in court.

In May, Nancy Crissman of Kittanning was sentenced to four months to two years in jail for delivery of drugs, but was credited with more than 167 days served – which led to her immediate parole.

In June, Ashley McCall of Kittanning and Douglas Bowser of Ford City were each sentenced to six months to two years in jail for conspiracy to manufacture or deliver drugs. However, McCall was also credited with 195 days of jail time – more than six months – and Bowser was automatically paroled with six months to be spent within his own premises.

Sentencing for other alleged offenders – including Tyler Jordan of Bethel Township – are to be held later this month.

Others arrested due to the alleged drug crimes have pled guilty – waiving the need for a jury trial – but are awaiting further pre-sentence investigations or documentation before sentencing.

According to court records, one person picked up during the raid – Lucky Giron, of East Franklin Township – was arrested again and charged with similar drug crimes last month.

After Armstrong County Sheriff Bill Rupert, ARMNET Coordinator Frank Pitzer and other officers escorted some of those arraigned from the National Guard Armory in Ford City, suspects were arraigned by District Magisterial Judge Gary DeComo. (KP File Photo)