A local attorney made it known in court Wednesday that he is seeking the disqualification of the Centre County District Attorney’s Office from handling the cases of his clients.
Before the preliminary hearing of one of his clients, Jacob Aboodi, attorney Philip Masorti asked District Judge Steven Lachman to continue the hearing for 30 days to allow him time to submit a motion asking to disqualify the Centre County District Attorney’s Office from prosecuting any of his cases, citing a “real conflict of interest” between himself and District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller over forgery allegations made against the top prosecutor.
“We do not have the appearance of conflict,” Masorti said. “We have an actual conflict.”
Michelle Shutt, a former paralegal with the District Attorney’s Office, later worked for Masorti and told him of the alleged forgery. Shutt signed an affidavit alleging that Parks Miller had instructed her to study orders written by Judge Pamela A. Ruest and prepare an order that looked similar to one Ruest would have written. According to the affidavit, Shutt witnessed Parks Miller sign the judge’s name on the order and was instructed by the district attorney to file it with the Prothonotary’s Office.
Masorti said it was he that initiated the complaint against Parks Miller, he said in court. He has since been called as a grand jury witness and testified against her a few weeks ago, he added.
Masorti also read from court filings Parks Miller made through her attorneys where she alleged that Masorti acted with “actual malice” in a conspiracy with county solicitor Louis Glantz, the Centre County Board of Commissioners and attorney Bernard Cantorna to attack her with the allegations.
Parks Miller, seated a foot to Masorti’s immediate left, responded that the environment Masorti referred to was one that he had created himself by advancing and promoting “false” allegations against her, and that she stood by the filings she and her attorneys made. She also alluded to the grand jury and said that though Masorti may be a witness who testified, she wasn’t sure if that testimony was against her or not.
There is no conflict between her office and anyone represented by Masorti, she said.
“I would never hold his peculiar and questionable behavior against one of his clients,” Parks Miller said.
Lachman denied the request and the preliminary hearing continued. Masorti said he planned on filing the motion to disqualify the office soon.
Aboodi, 19, of Scarsdale, N.Y., faces charges from an incident in February. He is accused of trespassing at a Penn State dormitory, Penn State police said, and charged with felony trespassing and misdemeanor counts of possessing a fake ID and underage drinking, according to court documents.
He was taken to Centre County Correctional Facility and was charged with felony inmate contraband possession and a summary drug possession charge when generic Xanax was reportedly found in his sock, according to the criminal complaint.
Additional charges of defiant trespass and disorderly conducted were added at the preliminary hearing Wednesday, but the felony contraband charge was dismissed.