A few weeks ago, commenting on an article in the paper, a fellow commentator made a reference to someone that I had met once, a judge from Cambria County; I’d lived in the county in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Well, it brought out a streak of nostalgia for the period from me, and I thought I’d read about him. His name was Honorable Joseph Francis O’Kicki, and he was the President Judge of Cambria County. I found that there were some interesting things that related to what I usually blog about, the disappearance of former Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar. The reason is that like Mr. Gricar, Judge O’Kicki disappeared for a time; unlike Mr. Gricar, Judge O’Kicki whereabouts became known.
In looking at these two men there were differences and some similarities. Both men were lawyers and brilliant in that field; Judge O’Kicki, who made law review at the University of Pittsburgh, was perhaps even more brilliant. Both men were elected public office, at the county level, in Central Pennsylvania.1 Importantly, both men were of Slovenian ancestry.
The main difference was Judge O’Kicki was both a crook and a pervert; there is no evidence, after more than eight years, that Mr. Gricar was either. Judge O’Kicki, in the greatest scandal to hit Cambria County (and believe me, there were others), was found guilty of using his position for financial gain; the scandal broke in 1988 and the now former judge, he lost the retention vote, was convicted in 1992. He was also found guilty of sitting in his chambers, in his underwear (reports vary if there were jockey or bikini) and then calling in his secretary to take dictation.2 The scandal had elements of a farce, to the point that local radio station produced a parody song to the tune of Toni Basil’s 1981 hit “Mickey,”3 replacing the lyric “Oh, Mickey” with “O’Kicki.” One line in the “Judge O’Kicki Song,” was, if memory serves, “O’Kicki people that you are such a slime. If you did what they say, you will be doing time.” Well, O’Kicki was convicted, but before he could be sentenced, he fled the country.4 Nobody knew where he was, though he was spotted in State College. It turned out that Judge O’Kicki had fled to Slovenia in early 1993. So, if we asked the questions, “what happened to Joe O’Kicki,” or even “where is Joe O’Kicki,” we have an answer.
We also know the answer to the question, “How did Joe O’Kicki get out of Pennsylvania?” He flew out of the airport in State College to Canada, and went from Canada to Slovenia, using a legally obtained Slovenian passport.5 He obtained the passport because he was, along with being a citizen of the United States, Judge O’Kicki was also a citizen of Slovenia.4,5
Slovenia has an interesting citizenship law. If you have at least one great grandparent that was born in Slovenia, you are eligible for citizenship. Judge O’Kicki had all eight great parents born there. He could legally retain United States citizenship as well.6
In the O’Kicki case, one interesting tidbit was when the judge applied. It was in 1987, during a visit to Slovenia, about six years before he would flee there. Now, in 1987, I was active in politics, during my misspent youth, in Cambria County. There were rumors about a judge that could be bought, no name given. O’Kicki could have been thinking about a future outside the reach of the long arm of the law. Conversely, he just may have wanted a tie to his ancestral homeland. Ironically, it would be a few years before Slovenia was fully independent, so he could not really have known the political future of the county.
Had Judge O’Kicki not been facing sentencing, or arrest, he could have left from Cambria County, and did exactly what he did, and broken no laws. It would have been perfectly legal for him to leave the country, using a legally obtained Slovenian passport, and settle in Slovenia. In 2005, it would have been legal for Mr. Gricar to do the same.
1940 Census data confirms that Mr. Gricar’s maternal grandmother was born in Yugoslavia, of which Slovenia was a constituent part at the time. Mr. Gricar was known for being interesting in his Slovenian heritage, and having visited the area in the 1970’s and in 1983, according to his FBI background check.7 There may have been post 1986 trips.
The O’Kicki story was the major news story in the Central Pennsylvania Media Market, the Gricar story of its day; Mr. Gricar obviously knew about it. Steve Sloane, then a newly appointed assistant district attorney, had lived in Cambria County and talked about the case with him. Further, Judge O’Kicki left from the State College airport,5 right in the middle of Mr. Gricar’s jurisdiction, and ended up in a place where Mr. Gricar not only visited, but had distant relatives.
As I’ve indicated, I lived in the area much of the time that the O’Kicki scandal was unfolding, leaving the area about 6 months before O’Kicki did. I talked about the case with friends, so it was not too uncommon. Even after moving, I was talking to old friend from the area and asked, “Did they ever find O’Kicki?” It is very clear that Mr. Gricar knew about the case, along with the bulk of Central Pennsylvania.
We also know about Mr. Gricar’s ties to Slovenia; he had majored in Russian history in college, as an undergraduate, so he had good understanding of Eastern Europe.8 We also know that he like to travel.
We do know something else. The police have translated Mr. Gricar’s missing person’s poster into Slovenian.9 There is not exactly a huge Slovenian speaking population anyplace along the Susquehanna. The “O’Kicki option,” that Mr. Gricar voluntarily left and ended up in Slovenia, is being considered.
It is both possible and plausible that Mr. Gricar left for Slovenia on 4/15/05 using a legally obtained Slovenian passport. “Possible and plausible,” however, is not proof that he did. The proof would need to come from several points.
First, did Mr. Gricar ever acquire Slovenian citizenship and, if so, did he get a Slovenian passport? Second, if the answer is “yes,” was that passport found among his papers? Third, if the answer was “no,” is there any evidence that passport was used after 5:00 PM on 4/15/05? The answers of “yes, “no,” and “yes,” respectively would answer the question of “What happened to Ray Gricar?”
2 Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/04/89, http://articles.philly.com/1989-12-04/news/26160127_1_judge-o-kicki-review-board-statewide-appellate-courts
3 The video is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSfnopkT37I
(Yes, this was part of the soundtrack to my misspent youth.)
4 Morning Call, 3/28/93, http://articles.mcall.com/1993-03-28/news/2895525_1_judge-crater-judge-o-kicki-disappearance
5 Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/24/93, http://articles.philly.com/1993-03-24/news/25951535_1_james-yelovich-joseph-o-kicki-slovenia
8 Myths and Mysteries of Pennsylvania, p. 18
Centre Daily Times Ray Gricar Section: http://www.centredaily.com/138/
Link to the Main Index for Sporadic Comments on Ray Gricar: http://www.centredaily.com/2011/03/21/2597340/main-index-32011.html
E-mail J. J. in Phila at firstname.lastname@example.org