Monday, January 25, 2016

Bethlehem Zoning Critic Convicted of Harassment

Al Bernotas
A former Bethlehem City Council candidate and long-time critic of the City's Zoning Hearing Board was convicted of harassment  Magisterial District Judge Patricia Engler reached her verdict against Johnston Drive resident Al Bernotas, age 74, following a lengthy trial on Friday.

This conviction stems from the zoning case that just won't go away. Two years ago, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declined to get involved in the proposed business expansion of Elias Market, located on Linden Street in Bethlehem. That should have ended a case that spawned multiple zoning hearing board decisions, a lost transcript that required more hearings and numerous court reviews along the way. Despite losing at every step, an increasingly small group of neighbors calling itself the Bethlehem Homeowners Association, has continued the fight with a litany of complaints to the City. That in turn has resulted in several enforcement actions. In September, when one of these enforcement actions was dismissed, six police officers had to calm down Yong Hao, an Elias opponent who lost his composure and began pointing at affable Chairman Gus Loupos.

Al Bernotas was at that time already facing three counts of harassment for following an Elias delivery truck from Bethlehem to Allentown in April, ostensibly to prove that the business is involved in wholesale distribution. Wherever the truck went, he went, Wherever the truck stopped, so did he. He also snapped pictures. A spooked driver called Elias, and a private criminal complaint charging three counts of harassment against Bernotas was approved by DA Jim Martin.

Bernotas disputed allegations that he directed profanities at the driver, and vowed he will continue following the trucks because "my name is Al Bernotas."

The case against Bernotas was presented by distinguished Bethlehem Attorney Richard Pepper, a long-time prosecutor. The matter had to be continued several times to arrange for an Arabic translator. Bernotas was represented by Kathryn Elizabeth Roberts, who is reputedly an excellent Allentown criminal defense lawyer

Prior to the hearing, on this very blog, Bernotas called Joe Elias the "Godfather." He also suggested that the driver he followed might flee to Iraq, where he could support Muqtadā al-Ṣadr.

I don't think that helped him.

He was convicted and fined $200, but at Pepper's request, this was reduced to "a finding of guilt without further penalty" because "these people need to get along in their neighborhood."

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

The sad part is Elias should not have been allowed to expand like that, but at the first Zoning Hearing, residents did not bring a lawyer. Thus the record was not made properly. If you are going to battle a zoning matter, you must have someone with standing get objections (not emotional, but statutory) on the record from the start. That was their main error, and why they lost the whole shooting match. That place is ridiculous in size for where it is placed. It was able to expand far beyond what it should have, as a nonconforming use - which is often 50%. I think they've expanded like 200 or 300% in total.

The residents have only themselves to blame for not hiring an attorney for the first meeting. They must have spent 10's of thousands after the fact, for naught. Now they are broke, broken AND miserable.

Anonymous said...

Fuck um if they don't understand the insider information!

Anonymous said...

Al is the ed p of Bethlehem. He thinks it is all about him and that he could never be possibly wrong. Glad to see the smack down. He earned it.

Anonymous said...

Yea, and it is pay to play and palumpas party favor vegetable party favor consessionar competitors are allowablely apperated and protected by top law dogs of this collusionary nue nue nue ReNue the valley were the same tactiks and actors are used to terrorize home owners into submission¿!($ There are many rental tenaments under the same name protected in this campaign contribitors opperation as well as mother sister brother second cousin excedra that have had incubation monies allocated and set up shop for the very criminality that the circus actors claim to be in opposition of yet in back rooms are excepting there part of the take from this infection transgretional transformation into the darkages¿!($

This is the same old circus only the props have new faces, left versus right connected by the whole body claiming ignorance that it is just one big consortium of criminality¿!($ Paperwork lost is just one of there many collosionary dillusionary circus diversionary tools employeed¿!($

It is too early to be thinking such deep thoughts of the secret but not so secret twist'Z of LVHN formally known as the great allent hospital circus nutZ shell trix games¿!)$

No sigNUTure needed¿!($

Anonymous said...

Compared to the former owners, the place is a pig pen with mostly over ripe & rotting fruit.

Anonymous said...

Just a local business man trying to make a living. Suck it up Mr. Bernatos. With all the money floating in that neighborhood you should have hired a lawyer. Cheap will get you a lost. Good job Mr. Elias.

Anonymous said...

Al is a good guy with good intentions but he has to let this go. The Elias market is a great place to go and I think adds to the neighborhood. Do they have to do a better job of keeping the place cleaned up outside, YES. But the market was there long before the houses and Mr. Bernatos. Time to move on.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"the place is a pig pen with mostly over ripe & rotting fruit"

I don't think there's a better place at which to buy produce in the Lehigh Valley, except the Allentown Farmer Market.

Anonymous said...

@12:10

Absolutely right, Bernie.

And the folks at Elias couldn't possibly be nicer. They're always perfectly polite and helpful, no matter how crowded it is.

And any place with a monument to an American soldier is a place where I want to do business.

-Jeffrey Anthony

Anonymous said...

BERNATOSS SHOULD BE IN JAIL

Anonymous said...

Al needs to move on. Elias should do some landscaping and maintenance. Smoke a hookah together. All would be right with the world.

Anonymous said...

No time for his type. Bitter old man should just go away.

Patriot2 said...

Bernotas should be knighted for fighting for what is right. Elias is a bad neighbor & the city should have backed the residents.

Anonymous said...

Re Bernie at 12:10 and Jeffrey at 12:28, agree on all counts -- the produce is good and getting better with the better facilities the market has developed. The people who work there are helpful and pleasant, the place is an asset to the neighborhood. This zoning mania has ruined our communities. It used to be that we could access most if not all of our daily destinations on foot in our neighborhoods, then the mania for segregating everybody into residential ghettos took over, probably bankrolled behind the scenes by the auto industry. IMO, Mr. Bernotas and his acolytes ought to pay the legal fees for Elias, and Mr. Bernotas should be sentenced to wear a dunce cap in public, made out of bright orange like the cones used to direct traffic around disasters, so that the unwary public can be warned of his nearness.

BHA said...

See open letter to Mayor Donchez.

http://bha-online.blogspot.com/?zx=ef6eb08305b09914

Al Bernotas said...

And just to bring this harassment case to a close, I spoke with Marc Scaringi, a Harrisburg attorney, politically connected. My question to him was, "do I have a constitutional right to take photographs in public places?" His answer was, please send a retainer for $5,000.00." Needless to say, I told him that I was not going to spend $5,000.00 on this case, and he said, "ok, well, thank you for the call," That was it. I always thought I could fight this on constitutional grounds, my right to take a picture of anyone or anything in a public place. But that right only takes precedence if you have a ton of money to fight for your rights. It is not worth $5,000.00. We may have a reasonably good judicial system in this country, but it is not justice for all. In this case, we had eight conditions imposed upon Elias, but just try to get them enforced. It is not happening when you have Zoning Officer discretion, and the Zoning Officer favors the unlawful behavior of Elias. Yes, you can take Elias to court and fight it on a personal basis, but that also takes a ton of dough. I am still pissed off, and seething, but the only thing I can do now is just let if fester until it goes away. Someday I would like to see justice done, but for now, it is time to let it go.

Al Bernotas said...

And just to bring this harassment case to a close, I spoke with Marc Scaringi, a Harrisburg attorney, politically connected. My question to him was, "do I have a constitutional right to take photographs in public places?" His answer was, please send a retainer for $5,000.00." Needless to say, I told him that I was not going to spend $5,000.00 on this case, and he said, "ok, well, thank you for the call," That was it. I always thought I could fight this on constitutional grounds, my right to take a picture of anyone or anything in a public place. But that right only takes precedence if you have a ton of money to fight for your rights. It is not worth $5,000.00. We may have a reasonably good judicial system in this country, but it is not justice for all. In this case, we had eight conditions imposed upon Elias, but just try to get them enforced. It is not happening when you have Zoning Officer discretion, and the Zoning Officer favors the unlawful behavior of Elias. Yes, you can take Elias to court and fight it a personal basis, but that also takes a ton of dough. I am still pissed off, and seething, but the only thing I can do now is just let if fester until it goes away. Someday I would like to see justice done, but for now, it is time to let it go.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I now all about it. You were convicted of harassment again aftwer a hearing in which you wasted a county judge's time for three hours. And you prove your stupidity. You claim the big mistake you made in elias is not having a lawyer. So you walk into a criminal case without one. Amazing. I understand the DA was ready to have you held in contempt until you started crying like a little girl.

Al Bernotas said...

You do not know all about it. You are a very large round sack of human pus.

My big mistake was trusting the legal system and the local (Bethlehem) Zoning Officer and the Zoning Hearing Board. That was a waste of time.

Appealing a case is not a waste of time. It is a constitutional right.

And the spin about crying is laughable. there was no crying. There was a long pause while I gathered my thoughts. And the pause was not related to the little ADA threatening contempt, which the Judge did not even react to. The ADA who prosecuted the case should have recused herself. It appears that she had the same ethnicity as the State's witness and the Elias clan. And she does not look as good rolling her eyes as she thinks she does. I had a great time in court. I especially enjoyed issuing subpoenas to the entire Elias clan, including their clan attorney, Joe Pepperoni. He is the one who wrote up the three harassment charges, two of which were dismissed for lack of evidence and total fabrication. After all, Mr. Pepperoni does not understand Arabic. They could have told him anything. He would not have a clue what the truth was. Two of the clan did not show up, after they heard that there might be warrants for their arrest, they miraculously showed up. Wimps.

Even though I did not and do not agree with the Judge's ruling, he was very professional and quite patient with a Pro se defendant. Always a good feeling in an American court to get railroaded for exercising your constitutional right to take photographs of someone conducting allegedly unlawful activity.

Interesting that you have to get your last digs in. Keep up the good reporting.

And by the way, as you get older, and start falling off your bike, I hope it happens in front of me, so I can just watch. You won't catch me being a good samaritan. And on the next fall from your bike, I want you to keep this in mind as you writhe in pain, "Al Bernotas wished this on me, Al Bernotas wished this on me."

Ok, now go for it. Since you own the blog, you can take the last word.