Friday, September 21, 2007

Lamont McClure: Bloodhound of the Law

Remember Nicole Fogel?

She's the former clerk who embezzled $120,000 from county coffers. She's paid back every cent, surrendered her county pension and was sentenced to a minimum of nine months in an overcrowded jail. After serving a third of that sentence, she'd like to spend the remainder under house arrest. She is a single mother with a young son, and he suffers for her sins. Now the District Attorney's office opposes this request. At a hearing last week, an assistant DA exclaimed, "House arrest is a joke. What she did was not a joke."

At a Northampton County council meeting two weeks ago, Lamont McClure wanted to know whether the county opposes Fogel's request for house arrest. "We're the victim."

McClure's wife is an assistant DA and his campaign is heavily funded by contributions from that office. If he felt that strongly about it, he could ask his wife for the time and date of the hearing so he could march in and demand a judge to give Fogel twenty years in the electric chair.

But he didn't do that. Instead, he demanded last night that the county explain why it failed to take a position in that hearing. County exec Stoffa had decided "to defer to the wisdom of the court," and McClure insisted on knowing why.

"It's not my call," Stoffa laconically replied. And Stoffa's absolutely right. Just as judges make bad county executives, county executives make bad judges.

Without knowing any facts about Nicole Fogel, McClure wants to slam her around a bit so that he looks tough on crime. After all, he's got an election to win and a DA campaign donor to please.

In the primary. McClure demonstrated his McMud-like tendencies when he resurrected the memory of his opponent's deceased brother. Now he's at it again. This time, he's kicking an ex county worker while she's down. This mean-spirited councilman apparently thinks he can tell judges what sentences they may impose.

I wonder if he carries a little badge.
Update: In a one sentence order, Judge Emil Giordano has denied Fogel's request for house arrest. He did so without interference from the Lamont McClure for County Council campaign.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

As a county worker, I'm not happy with Fogel. But McClure has no business deciding something that's up to a judge. He won't get my vote.

Anonymous said...

She is a thief. Thou shalt not steal. Especially our tax dollars, because, that's what she did. Put her in the "Big House" if she wants to be under house arrest. She should have thought of her family before she stole the money. Stoffa's job is to look out for our money, evidently, he didn't do his job. Stoffa should get his hands slapped, not McClure.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Thank you, Lamont. Did Tom Severson tell you to make this play? Or did your wife whisper it in your ear?

river said...

Correction, she didn't pay the money back. Her parents did.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Double correction. Her pension funds were used to make part of the restitution.

Thius decision should be made by a judge. That's his call. Not Lamont's. Not mine.

river said...

I do agree Bernie. It is not up to a council member or anyone else to try to over rule the courts ruling. I am sure the county also must have spent many thousands just to find out who took the money and in court fees. If a person wants to disregard a courts ruling make his own rules and judgment on anyone we will have true chaos. Also, Nichol's parents, who have had a business in Nazareth for decades are also victims here.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I feel sorry for them all. The Fogels, her son, even Nicole herself. She is a human being.

I don't defend her crime, but don't think a county councilman who's running for election should be deciding whether she gets work release.

MAD AS BATS said...

Anybody consider how much it would cost to keep her in the big house, as opposed to letting her work and pay taxes? That restitution has been made is a big thing to me. There is justice, and then there is vindictiveness, which should apply here?

Anonymous said...

BO you feel I unfairly slam Stoffa alot. I am not impressed with him as a manager, though I find him a nice guy. In this case he is right. I think Council has every right to ask about how the issue has impacted County functions and systemic changes made; however, the issue of Ms. Fogel is not a matter of Executive or Legislative concern, at least not publicly.
Mr. MaClure is posturing on this as is the DA's Dept. For Christs sake do all the 'throw away the key' folks know how expensive a cell is in the pokey.
Stoffa response was correct in this isnstance. There I said it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Maddy,

Like Stoffa said, this is why we have judges. As much as I hate them sticking their noses into county government, I don't think we should be telling them what to do with a convicted defendant, unless they are acting egregiously.

Here's what Lamont knows. Two weeks ago, the county was told that the prison is beyond capacity. Cots are being set up everywhere, in halls, the gym, etc. Even the work release facility is beyond capacity.

In this situation, we have an ex county worker who has surrendered her pension, has made full restitution, has served about four months of her sentence, and has had to march as a prisoner in front of the very people she worked with for over twenty years. She has a young boy who misses his mother. She has parents who love her and can put her to work at their business. She is willing to remain at home, under house arrest. She obviously misses her son. She even came on this blog a few months ago to say how munch she regretted what she had done to her son.

Do I think McClure is being petty and vindictive? Absolutely. You and I both know that being tough on crime gets you votes. But it's not justice.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 12:13,

I think I'm going to have to start drinking again now.

river said...

Also while she is in prison taking up needed cell space for a person who committed a violent crime, someone has to care for her child and pay for the health insurance... not a cheap bill either.

Anonymous said...

I guess it would be a good county to steal from, because I won't have to go to jail. I can sit home and watch soap operas and Disney channel with my kid. What a deal. This is better than Price is right or Let's mak a deal. New show on TV, Steal and Deal in Northampton County, no jail time. Wadda country.

river said...

hi anon 103. I would love to lock up every one who gets caught too. But with the Lehigh Valley's exploding population, all our prison space has been maxed out. For every person who gets caught committing a crime, I'll bet there are ten others who are out there getting away with it. Just like Deadbeat dads out there who won't pay their child support... when they get put in jail it still isn't getting any money out of them. How can we solve it? Sheesh , I wish I knew.

A.J. Cordi said...

Bernie,

Forgive me for posting without reading all the comments, but I didn't want anything to alter my opinion until after I had it typed.

The money has been paid back and she has served some of her time. I believe that she should serve 2/3 of her sentence, and then 1/3 on house arrest - if she cooperates with everyone, has good behavior, etc., the whole 9 yards.

This woman has a family, and the money has been paid back at her expense. The DA is right about what she did not being a joke, but Martha Stewart had better treatment than this!

Anonymous said...

Notwithstanding the reasons Fogel may be a sympathetic person for leniency isn't the original issue whether the County, as the victim, could or should take a position on the issue of her sentence?

Bernie O'Hare said...

No,

The county may be the victim, but it is also the prosecutor. Most victims don't have that little advantage.

The issue was never about the county's interests as a victim and always about Lamont McClure's interest in finding iussues that will get him elected.

Anonymous said...

If she deserves house arrest after serving only a third of her sentence then I presume you believe her nine month sentence was harsh. Violation of public trust, $120,000.00, need for deterrence- 9 months seems right and parenthood is never a huge factor in the eyes of the court

Bernie O'Hare said...

Like I said when I posted this blog, this is not my call. Nor it is Lamont McClure's. This was a decision for the sentencing judge. And I respect his decision.

I am highly critical of our local judges, but not for what they do on the bench. The legislative and executive branches should not interfere with a sentencing judge's discretion, and he may have had none in this instance because the sentence had already been imposed.

One point. You claim parenthood is not a major factor to a sentencing court. That is complete garbage. If someone is a parent, especially of young children, that is a huge consideration when a court considers what is appropriate.

Anonymous said...

OK. Let me retreat from my generalization Depends on the crime. You will not get a break when a certain sentence is called for just because you are a parent; such breaks are likely to come when your crime is of the impulsive type (assault after an argument say),a one-time thing or victimless. A pattern of embezzlement is entirely different.

Anonymous said...

Also i disagree with your characterization of this as interference by the legislative branch. While a comment by Council would be inappropriate under any other circumstances I can't see how they lose their right to speak as victims. Isn't that why we have a seperation of powers? The Judges aren't even on the county payroll.

Would you still call it interference if the County spoke for leniency?

Anonymous said...

Finally, sure he's grandstanding. But you tried to extend that with your claim that he sought to usurp the Court's decision-making power and that is a bridge too far.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 3:07, 3:00 & 2:48,

OK, WE both agree that McClure was grandstanding and that judges do consider parenthood in some cases. But was McClure attempting to usurp the judiciary?

I say yes, and for these reasons.

a) Since the county is the victim in this instances, its interests are more than adequately represented by the DA, who represents the people in court on criminal matters. Council has no standing. Even Stoffa lacks standing. Both the admin and McClure are free to make their concerns known to the DA, who could decide whether he wanted to use those statements or not. But anything more than that is interference.

b) McClure, in two publicly conducted county council meetings, insisted on harping on this judicial matter. As a single member of council, he has no right to speak for the county as victim. McClure was hoping that the press would pick up on his remarks. In an exchange with Mr. Hillanbrand, McClure made a derogatory remark that reality bothered me. When told that Stoffa had decided top "defer to the wisdon of the court," McClure quickly demanded, "Why?" That implies a number of things and is extremely disrespectful to the court as court.

Now listen, I'll criticize our local judges much more than most, but not for their behavior or integrity on the bench. McClure's statement was disrespectful. It bothered me. It bothered people in the audience besides me. It appalled several members of council as well as some members of Stoffa's cabinet.

Would I made the same argument had McClure spoken for leniency? I can sit here and tell you I'd be consistent in my approach, but I honestly don't know. I think what bothered me most was the disrespectful attitude towards the court and obvious attempt to pressure it for political purposes. Had McClure argued for leniency, he'd still be interfering, but at least no one could accuse him of grandstanding because no one gets elected by showing sympathy to a criminal defendant.

Anonymous said...

I said parenthood is never a huge factor- I did not say it is never a factor.

"Council has no standing. Even Stoffa lacks standing. Both the admin and McClure are free to make their concerns known to the DA,"

Agreed but how does a request to the Exec, while in Council that the county express, as victim, its position on the house arrest petition require standing? Again how is a statement in Council interference with a judicial proceeding?

"Both the admin and McClure are free to make their concerns known to the DA,."
What was done beyond this?


Was he asking that Stoffa actually attend the hearing; no. The request that the Exec take a position presumes that the Exec would go through channels, as you say, contacting the DA so that the DA can report to the Court that the victim opposes the sentencing change.

"But anything more than that is interference."

What was done that was more than that?



Is the derogatory comment the question: "why", relative to trusting to the wisdom of the court? That might be a curt comment and therefore disrespectful to Stoffa, if anyone, although there is a legitimate query in there somewhere: "Would you please explain how you determined that neither the DA nor the Court would know our position regarding the petition for house arrest in the Fogel matter."


I love the Freudian typo in your last post: "reality bothered me"

Bernie O'Hare said...

"reality bothered me"

Oopsie. You got me!

The curt McClure comment, made immediately after the comment that deferred to the wisdom of the court, was insulting to the court, not Stoffa. That's the consensus of a number of us who attended the meeting.

McClure's public comments and public questions were designed to draw public attention to his desire to kick Fogel around. Had those remarks been published in either of the local papers, it would have amounted to undue judicial interference. The court would be pressured to be tough on Fogel instead of following its own discretion.

The proper way for McClure to have proceeded was by making his wishes known to the DA, who does represent the people in this matter.

And since when does McClure, who has not been elected to anything, have the right to dictate administrative policy to the county exec?

No, in this instance, McClure presumed a lot. He apparently thinks he is also exec, DA and judge.

In truth, he's a county councilman who has yet to get elected.

Anonymous said...

Bernie O'Hare said... "The proper way for McClure to have proceeded was by making his wishes known to the DA, who does represent the people in this matter."
And than you would have screamed about his wife working for the DA. You can't have it both ways.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Neither can he. He is a walking conflict of interest. He sits on county council, but is actually the DA's pawn. His wife works there and the office contributes heavily to his campaigns.

If he wanted to avoid a conflict, he'd abstain from all matters involving the DA and would stop asking the admin to take positions on very public cases.

Anonymous said...

John Schimmel is the person who didn't do his job. Maybe he and Stoffa should both be in jail with Fogel for non performance of their duties.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Oh, I see. This is just politics.

river said...

:):):) don't forget.. if you allow McClure to keep someone in jail, you would also allow him to keep someone out of jail. Thats only fair isn't it :):):)