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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Nazareth's Strange Parking Enforcement

Magisterial District Judge John Capobianco called the hour-long prosecution of Schubert's baker Stephen Riccelli "the most bizarre parking ticket case I've had in eight years." Since he's had a few involving yours truly, that should tell you just how strange it was. It included five Commonwealth witnesses, including two police officers, Chief Thomas Trachta and Mayor Carl Strye, Jr. It included a tape measure that had been certified by the state Department of Weights and Measures. It included a ticket that had somehow vanished, with orders from the Chief to charge someone even though the Statute of Limitations had expired. It even included a Borough Solicitor, who sat throughout the proceedings. The good news is that Stephen Riccelli was found not guilty, the only possible result that could be reached. The bad news is that Nazareth's police chief and Mayor seemed to be at odds on how to handle the matter, and basically made it impossible for the prosecuting officer to do his job.

Let me give you the facts about the ticket itself. Riccelli had parked his Shubert's bakery truck on Broad Street this winter, and thanks to the never-ending snow, it was stuck there. Riccelli claimed he was actually parked on the curb, but an unknown third party called to complain that the truck was too far out into the street, creating a traffic hazard.

Officer Fred Lahovski was assigned to take care of the matter, and used his certified tape measure to determine that the truck was parked too far into the street. He made attempts to contact Riccelli by phone, but was unsuccessful. So he wrote out a $30 ticket.

Riccelli, who has lived most of his life making Moravian sugar cakes, had never been cited for anything in his life, so this was a big deal to him. He complained to Lahovski several times, asking him to withdraw the ticket. He complained to Chief Trachta. He also complained to Mayor Strye.

Strye thought the whole thing was ridiculous. "If I had the authority to void the ticket, I would have voided the ticket," he testified. "Everybody was parking 12" from the street." But he never spoke to Officer Lahovski, the person who had actually issued the ticket. "I thought the Chief would do that," he explained.

The Chief refused to do anything. Relying on a policy that he himself admitted is on shaky legal ground, he contended that Riccelli had two options - pay the ticket or go to court.  In several email exchanges with the Mayor, he refused to budge.

In the meantime, the ticket had disappeared. That apparently happened earlier in the winter, too, when a number of snow emergency tickets disappeared.

"You are aware that there's a problem with tickets disappearing in the police department, aren't you?" Lahovski asked Strye, even suggesting that Strye had ordered an investigation into the matter.

Judge Capobianco told Mayor Strye he did not have to answer the question, and he didn't.

"Are you a substitute for the courts?" Lahovski asked Strye. He agreed he is not

When the Chief found out about the missing ticket, he ordered Lahovski to charge Riccelli even though the 30-day statute of limitations had expired.

Lahovski disclosed this to Riccelli as part of his obligation to disclose exculpatory evidence, but all the confused baker could say is, "This stuff is going right over my head."

It was a case that involved Mayoral interference, a stubborn chief who was willing to ignore the statute of limitations for summary offenses, no explanation for how the ticket disappeared and a complete unwillingness by both Mayor and Chief to communicate with the citing officer.

It was a parking ticket case in which the real defendant was not the Schubert baker, but Nazareth Borough officials.

What makes this case even more interesting is to look at the summary appeals court, where people can appeal their convictions in magisterial district court. For the first time in 15 months, Nazareth actually had some cases on the May docket. The DA notified them to appear, but the Chief and Mayor decided not to bother spending the money to send an officer. As a result, several parking offenses were dismissed.


Anonymous said...

If there is anyone that deserves a ticket itnis this douche nozzle Riccelli. If someone dare park in his 15:minute zone near his awful bakery he calls the police. The damn sign is so far up the pole (on top of of the snow emergency sign) that many people miss it. But if he feels like parking his pedo-van there he absolutely will.

The neighbors absolutely hate this guy and contractors who work on local homes have been accosted by him to move their trucks. That being said I can't believe his business is doing that well because there isn't much patronage. Explains why he has so much time to play parking nazi.

You want a REAL bakery, try Easton Bakery.

Anonymous said...

@6:43 You're an ignornant ass. I frequent both Schuberts and Easton Baking Company. They are both "REAL" bakeries, but they produce totally different products. Both do an excellent job, but most people would choose one or the other.

Just because you have a telephone pole lodged in your butthole over where and when this guy parks his van doesn't mean other people do. There's a lot of space out there - pick another one.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like super mall cop want-a-be bozo Lahovsky was trying to set up the Mayor and chief in Magistrate Capobianco's court room at his expense. Glad the Shuberts owner won. From what I am hearing on the street, this cop is a grand stander and hot dog. I feel sorry for the Borough that they and their citizens have to put up with a cop who is an asshole. 1 hour court session for a parking ticket? You have got to be kidding me! Hopefully the DA will step in and crucify this cop who should not be on any street!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Be careful what you wish for. If the DA steps in, both tge Mayor and Chief will have to explain why they failed to notify police officers of a pending court matter.

UNT said...

HAHAHAHAHA this is so funny. THanks for keeping us informed Bernie. HAHAHHAHA what a bunch of jack asses running the town and police office. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Judge Cap should have fined them for wasting his time .

I cant stop laughing...HAHAHAHAHAHA

UNT said...

Did the Shuberts owner bake cupcakes for the borough meeting for you Bernie, and is that the reason he is picking on him and spending valuable resources on a $30 ticket? HAHAHAHAH still laughing.