Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller, through her attorney Bruce Castor Jr., filed a petition Monday in Centre County Court to have Bellefonte police return property taken from her office.
The department executed a search warrant on the District Attorney’s Office on Saturday evening and took “several items” as part of an investigation into allegations of forgery and filing false documents, according to a press release issued by Bellefonte police shortly after the search took place.
Parks Miller is accused by a former employee of forging the signature of county Judge Pamela A. Ruest in 2013.
In the petition, Parks Miller said the warrant lacked probable cause and violated the U.S. and Pennsylvania constitutions. She also said she thinks that Bellefonte police lack proper jurisdiction in the case, that the state Attorney General’s Office is the proper investigating body and that police were aware that office was conducting an investigation when they executed the warrant.
She maintains that she turned the matter over to the Attorney General’s Office as soon as she was made aware of the allegations and has been cooperating with them since.
Others have expressed concern over the way investigations should be conducted. Richard Long, executive director of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, said the organization is aware of the situation, but that it is too soon to take a position on it as the group is still gathering information. They are following how the investigations are being conducted, he said.
“All I can say right now is we have concerns about the process, and that’s been the focus of the discussion on it,” he said.
The petition also states that the seized items are “necessary to her performance” as district attorney. Castor said Parks Miller’s computer and files with information regarding ongoing investigations and cases handled by her office were taken in the search.
Bellefonte Police Chief Shawn Weaver said he read the petition and declined to comment further.
Parks Miller also accused the county commissioners of engaging in “official oppression” against her and acting in conspiracy with county solicitor Louis Glantz and local attorneys Bernard Cantorna and Philip Masorti to unethically attack her. The conspiracy is “retaliation” by the commissioners for doing her job, including investigating the son of Commissioner Chris Exarchos in connection to a homicide and policy conflicts with the board.
She thinks Masorti and Cantorna were involved because of two criminal cases, the petition states.
In the first case, a lawyer employed by Masorti was prosecuted on drug-trafficking charges and a search warrant was executed at Masorti’s law office.
In the other, Cantorna was defense counsel for Jalene McClure, who was convicted and sentenced to 10-20 years in state prison late last year over child abuse charges. Glantz and Cantorna have offices in the same building, and Cantorna is a “close confidant” of Glantz, according to the petition.
Cantorna presented commissioners with a signed affidavit at a Jan. 20 meeting from Michelle Shutt, a former paralegal with the District Attorney’s Office and an employee of Masorti, accusing Parks Miller of forging Ruest’s signature on a court document. Commissioners unanimously authorized Glantz to execute measures to provide for a “special prosecutor” to investigate Parks Miller at that meeting.
Some of the alleged conspirators commented on the petition Monday.
Cantorna said that he never talked to Shutt and that the alleged forgery has nothing to do with the McClure case.
“There is no conspiracy and it appears that several people reached the same conclusion that something needs to be done,” Cantorna said.
Commissioners Chairman Steve Dershem said he had not read the document, but that if someone accuses him of official oppression, he assumes there is evidence.
“I’m just trying to get to the bottom of a situation that was brought to our attention,” he said.
The person prosecuted on drug charges, Steve Sloane, was a former prosecutor. Sloane worked for Masorti’s firm in 2011, and Masorti said Sloane had drugs shipped to the law firm, but also other places, from the West Coast.
Sloane was sentenced to seven years’ probation and was disbarred. His office was searched as part of that investigation, Masorti said, and Masorti was cleared of any wrongdoing.
“If she wants to believe that I am the lead instigator in a conspiracy to bring down her and her office, she’s free to think that,” Masorti said, and added that he has had no contact with the commissioners or Glantz, and his contact with Cantorna was limited to two phone calls of less than 30 seconds and a conversation over “one draft beer at Faccia Luna’s,” he said.
Glantz did not return a call for comment.
As for the petition, Castor has requested an immediate court hearing for Bellefonte police to show why the seized materials should not be returned.
“These people have gone to war with someone who knows how to fight in court, and that’s what they’re going to get,” Castor said.