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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, June 04, 2015

MM - Fitzgerald Turned Down ARD on "Principle"

Allentown blogger Michael Molovinsky is reporting that Christopher Fitzgerald, who was acquitted earlier this week of charges filed in connection with a road rage incident involving two Lehigh County detectives, spurned an ARD offer on principle.

ARD, which stands for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, is a special program for first offenders under which charges will be dismissed and record expunged after the successful completion of a probationary period. The District Attorney has total discretion on deciding who is and is not eligible. The fact that he was willing to offer it here is an indication that he was aware that the case against Fitzgerald had its weaknesses. But it also demonstrates that he was trying to be fair.

By refusing this offer and insisting on a jury trial, Fitzgerald plunged into a world of uncertainty. Lots of things can happen in a jury trial. Most of them are bad for criminal defendants. He is a very lucky man.

I have also spoken to several criminal defense lawyers who have appeared in front of Judge Kelly Banach. To a man, they have told me they consider her very courteous and patient. Although the news accounts certainly made her look biased in my eyes, I was not there and I believe it is unfair of me to make that assessment without watching her in action.


Anonymous said...

But Bernie, I believe you did argue she was biased, in a post visible from a few days ago. It sounds like now you are saying she appeared biased from reports you read, but you can't conclude she was.

Is this an apology of sorts? If so, should it be stronger?

Bernie O'Hare said...

It's not an apology. I stand by what I wrote, based on what I read. It's an attempt to be accurate, based on information from attorneys who have appeared before Judge Banach. Basically, it's an acknowledgement that I could very well be full of shot, something most of my readers already know. But I can't conclude I am wrong, either.

Anonymous said...

Between what I've read here and in The Morning Call, the jury was split on the verdict until the very explanation that the defense lawyer had requested be made (but was denied by this judge) was made. Upon hearing the explanation, the jury decided unanimously. She may be courteous and patient, but she didn't look good on this one.

Anonymous said...

Good for him. The county detectives were out of line and a bit to drunk with their "badges." Why are they out policing anyway? Tailgating people? If they suspected something, call a Whitehall police marked car in and let them do their job. Bit to much cowboy at work here. The DA, their boss, covered their asses by letting this farce go to trial.

That is the problem with the DA's, they not only pander to the police but will back up their own private faux police detectives when they screw up.

This was a screw up. Good for the jury and good for the defendant.

This entire episode had some stinky undercurrents to it and people are still talking about what may have really been behind all of this.

Anonymous said...

Gary W. Gorman opines:

I always thought (and still believe) that Kelly was/is an excellent prosecutor and a spot-on judge; fair, balanced, mostly neutral and bi-partisan. And for those questioning her bias because she is married to a retired police officer...sorry, Kelly, but Officer Rick is head and shoulders above your neutrality (IMHO, of course). To the naysayers...her (current) marriage did not sway her judgment.

But this case is a spot (albeit, a small one) on her career. I was more amused when she chastised the Allentown Police Chief for glad-handing in court when she campaigned as "Waldron" to win her election. It's a little too much of (ok, a lot) pot=kettle (using your resources to achieve your victory). And then, not giving the jury proper instructions... and then later demanding an apology from the defense...it's appears more of an inflated ego, rather than unbiased decisions.

But, I have watched Judge Banach's opinions and decisions over the years and she remains among the top of the crop.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the DA offered ARD not to be "fair," but to try to avoid a trial that proved their investigators are lying bullies.