Bruce Castor Jr. was back at the Centre County Courthouse in his capacity as special assistant district attorney Monday morning.
It’s the second time Castor — who also represents District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller in her ongoing legal dispute with county government — has been in court in that role since his appointment in April.
Justin Hickox, 28, an inmate representing himself, was in court Monday seeking Parks Miller and her office’s removal from hearing cases involving him — namely post-sentence motions regarding an earlier conviction and charges relating to writing bad checks. Hickox alleged that he had been contacted by the Judicial Conduct Board to testify regarding conduct between Parks Miller and Judge Bradley P. Lunsford, who sentenced Hickox in 2012, and had been interviewed by an investigator.
Hickox argued that Parks Miller’s involvement presented a conflict of interest and asked the court to appoint a special prosecutor or hand the case over to the Attorney General’s Office.
Parks Miller denied the allegations when Castor called her to testify. Parks Miller said she reached out to the board in June, shortly after Hickox initially filed the motion. She said she received an email this month from a representative from the board that stated that while the existence of any investigation could not be confirmed or denied, no one from the Judicial Conduct Board had ever interviewed or deposed Hickox. The email was entered as evidence.
Clinton County Senior Judge J. Michael Williamson, who presided over the hearing, denied the motion to disqualify at its conclusion.
Hickox was arrested in 2010, accused of indecently assaulting an 8-year-old boy, and entered guilty pleas on charges related to the incident in 2011, according to court documents. Lunsford sentenced Hickox to four to 16 years in state prison in 2012. The conviction was reversed on appeal later that year and remanded to the Centre County Court of Common Pleas.
Hickox again entered guilty pleas to felony counts of indecent assault and a misdemeanor count of corruption of minors before Judge Jonathan Grine last year. Grine sentenced Hickox to time served and 16 years of probation. Earlier this month, Grine sentenced him to five to 10 years in prison for a probation violation.
Castor said Monday that his role in Centre County will primarily involve cases where Parks Miller might be called to testify, as she was Monday, and ones involving alleged conflicts of interest, although Castor said he is also available for use in an advisory role in other cases.
“Anytime where she’s falsely accused of misconduct, I’m going to do my best to advise her to the extent that she needs advice and be a sounding board for investigations or prosecutions,” he said.
The first time Castor was in a Centre County courtroom as a member of the District Attorney’s Office was in April, the same day he was sworn in, and also involved a motion to disqualify Parks Miller and her office from hearing cases.
Attorney Sean McGraw asked Williamson to remove Parks Miller from handling the Justin Blake case and that of another client. McGraw argued that there was a conflict of interest because McGraw and the law firm he works for were named as co-defendants in a lawsuit filed against county government by Parks Miller regarding the release of cellphone communication records and the state Right-to-Know law.
Williamson also presided over that hearing and denied that request.
He was also involved in negotiations that led to Blake’s guilty plea on burglary, sexual assault and other charges two weeks ago. McGraw said in court before the pleas that Castor had sent him a letter about dropping a rape charge against Blake in exchange for guilty pleas on the other charges. Castor has also made filings on behalf of the commonwealth in Jalene McClure’s appeal to the state Superior Court.
Castor began representing Parks Miller shortly after forgery allegations became public at a county commissioners meeting in January and has represented her in motions filed with the state Supreme Court and in the lawsuit filed over the state Right-to-Know law. She is also represented by attorneys from the Philadelphia-based firm of Fox Rothschild.
Castor is a Montgomery County commissioner, practices law privately, and is seeking election as district attorney there in the fall. He previously served as Montgomery County district attorney from 2000 to 2008.
Castor was the first of two former district attorneys specially appointed by Parks Miller this year. Robert Stewart, former Huntingdon County district attorney and retired deputy attorney general, was appointed earlier this month as a special assistant to handle cases seeking proceeds from drug forfeitures, according to his oath of office.