If Britney Bella friend requested you on Facebook, you might not have been talking to a pretty young college girl.
In court documents filed last week, defense attorney Bernard Cantorna put on the record something that had been rumored for a while — that the Centre County District Attorney’s Office had a secret Facebook page that it could use to keep an eye on the people it was prosecuting and the witnesses in the cases.
The documents were part of a 214-page filing in the case of Jalene McClure, the day care provider who was convicted in 2014 of the aggravated assault on an infant in her charge in 2012. That conviction was overturned and McClure was awarded a new trial.
Defense exhibit 27 in an attempt to bar retrial in the case is an email form DA Stacy Parks Miller to staff.
“All, I have made a (F)acebook page that is fake for us to befriend people and snoop. Her name is Britney Bella,” Parks Miller wrote. “Please edit it, post things occasionally to keep it looking legit, like things, add things and add friends ... Use it to befriend defendants or witnesses if you want to snoop.”
The email went to nine people in the office. Among them were Kelley Gillette-Walker, now a district judge, and Sean McGraw, now in private practice and one of the attorneys, along with Cantorna, that Parks Miller sued after allegations were made at a public commissioners meeting that she had forged Judge Pamela Ruest’s signature on a fake bail order as part of an investigation into death threats against then-assistant DA Nathan Boob.
Boob, who has since left the DA’s office, is also a recipient of the email.
The Facebook page and the death threat sting have the same root — the idea that investigators and prosecutors can take routes that some might question.
“An expert from the Pennsylvania Board of Ethics said that when there is a legitimate and defined purpose for using deception to uncover stop and prevent criminal activity that conduct is indeed ethical,” Parks Miller told the Centre Daily Times. “He mentions the most troubling form of internet crime, child pornography and exploitation of children. To quote him, ‘How can law enforcement agency or officials even start to address these problems without the use of pretexting on the internet?’ ”
“The only ethical prohibition for prosecutors talking to (legally represented) persons about their active case. No one in my office or any police department has ever done that nor could anyone say we have. Big difference,” she said.
Parks Miller said the issue was politically motivated, pointing to Cantorna’s announcement that he is running for DA. Parks Miller is also seeking her third term in office. Both are Democrats who will face each other in the primary.
The political motivation idea has been raised by Parks Miller repeatedly in recent weeks, both in court documents regarding McClure and in response to other organizations, like watchdog groups Taxpayers and Ratepayers United and Rock the Capital lobbying the Office of Attorney General for a new investigation into the relationship between the OAG, Parks Miller and her attorney, special Centre County assistant DA and former Pennsylvania AG Bruce Castor.
The OAG, before Castor joined the office as solicitor general and then moving up the ranks in now-convicted former AG Kathleen Kane’s office, presented the forgery allegations to a grand jury, who accepted handwriting expert testimony that the signatures belonged to Ruest and did not recommend charges.
Cantorna, however, has been more tight-lipped on the issue, often declining to make statements even when asked.
“I have a policy of not commenting on any case that’s in litigation,” he said.
A motion to seal in McClure’s case was filed Wednesday.