In a state where prosecutors as lofty as the attorney general have been pulled into disciplinary proceedings, Centre County will be the latest addition to the group.
According to the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller has a hearing scheduled for Nov. 29 in the Pennsylvania Judicial Center in Harrisburg.
Parks Miller confirmed the hearing Friday.
“Over the last 2 1/2 years, largely the people that have accused me of forgery have filed numerous issues against me for the purpose of keeping me tied up financially and personally and mainly in order to leak the ‘investigation’ to the press, which they did,” she said in an email. “My attorney advised me that at least 12 of those complaints were dismissed or resolved in my favor. There are two complaints we cannot agree on, so I elect to have a hearing where the board will decide.”
The board’s website lists a petition for the disciplinary hearing filed against Parks Miller on Feb. 22. The petition and the hearing have the same case number.
The petition comes from the state’s chief disciplinary counsel, Paul Killion, and disciplinary counsel Anthony Czuchinicki, and details two different issues.
The first involves allegations of ex parte communications between Parks Miller and two judges. Some of the details were first raised more than two years ago.
Czuchinicki’s petition lists a number of text messages and email communications between Parks Miller, Bradley Lunsford and Jonathan Grine. Lunsford retired from the bench in 2015 after the allegations were first raised and text records sought in Right-to-Know law requests. Grine is still a Centre County Court of Common Pleas judge, and will be second in seniority behind Pamela Ruest after the retirement of President Judge Thomas King Kistler at the end of the year. The petition details issues with communications in six different cases.
“Will u (sic) rescind that order so we can deal with it then?” Parks Miller replied to Lunsford in an email about Justin Cluck’s bail. “You have no idea where he will go etc. U (sic) don’t even have a supervised bail eval!”
Lunsford later replied that Cluck “is already gone.” Cluck’s attorney was not a part of the exchange, although he had been copied on the beginning of the thread.
In the case of an inmate who brought a self-represented petition against Parks Miller, Lunsford scheduled a hearing in May 2014. A week later, Parks Miller sent him an email, according to the documents.
“Are you serious? Scheduling a hearing with me and a pro se inmate on a (w)rit of mandaum (sic) making me answer to him about the complaints he filed about guards? Giving him a teleconference face to face making me report to him?” she is quoted as writing.
Czuchinicki’s petition said that by doing this, the DA “sought to, and in fact did, influence (Lunsford) by legally prohibited means.”
Later in that day, Lunsford is quoted as replying, “Ok. Thanks for clearing that up. I’ll cancel the hearing.”
About three weeks later, he denied the inmate’s petition with prejudice, meaning it could not be refiled.
The disciplinary counsel’s petition also includes a list of six emails between Parks Miller and Grine the day after the conviction of Mathew Shirk for a DUI homicide. The texts had been erased but were partially recovered.
Parks Miller’s texts to Grine included saying he laughed during statements made by pathologist Harry Kamerow disputing the defense’s argument, and telling Grine “as part of restitituion you sh(ould)...”
Shirk was not sentenced until July 7. Grine did include restitution as part of the sentence.
Parks Miller sent two texts to Lunsford minutes after a rape shield hearing concluded for Omar Best. Again, the texts were erased and digitally recovered by the disciplinary counsel, which said Parks Miller sent Lunsford one message that directly related to arguments made by an assistant district attorney. Less than three hours later, Lunsford entered an order granting the prosecution’s motion.
The issue in this instance was not just about the message, but about the fact that disciplinary counsel said they requested all communications, but Parks Miller made statements that said the communications did not involve “any pending criminal matters.”
“(Parks Miller) in connection with this disciplinary matter, knowingly and/or recklessly made a false statement of material fact,” Czuchinicki wrote.
She also claimed to have no access to any text messages, which Czuchinicki called a failure to respond to a lawful demand for information.
In all, the petition claims Parks Miller violated eight rules of professional conduct relating to the ex parte communications, including influencing a judge, knowingly making false statements and engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.
The second charge related to a fake Facebook identity created by the District Attorney’s Office to “befriend people and snoop,” according to an email.
When disciplinary counsel asked Parks Miller about the Britney Bella page in January 2015, she responded in a February 2015 answer that said its “exclusive purpose” was “to facilitate the self-identification” of drug dealers, pointing to three stores raided in February 2012. But the petition says the page continued to be used, and detailed uses identified as “misrepresentations and/or dishonest or deceitful acts.”
The Britney Bella page sparked another nine allegations of broken rules, including engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.
“I have an expert opinion for one that has opined that my behavior was ethical and appropriate,” Parks Miller told the Centre Daily Times. “I look forward to appearing before the board, answering questions honestly and finishing this matter, which was started by many with poor motives. I have nothing to hide and look forward to the hearing.”
Parks Miller lost her primary bid for a third term in May to Bernie Cantorna, a defense attorney whose client, Jalene McClure, is the subject of one of the cases noted under both the ex parte communications charge and the Britney Bella issue.
Cantorna declined to comment on the disciplinary hearing.