A man found guilty in 2009 of failing to comply with sex offender registration requirements after being released from Rockview state prison could see a new trial, according to court documents.
In an opinion filed Monday, the state Superior Court ruled that Harvey Elwood Demmitt Jr., 39, should be granted a new trial in Centre County because the trial judge committed “reversible error” when reading instructions to the jury.
Demmitt pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting a minor under 13 years of age and corruption of minors in York County in 2002. He was found to be a sexually violent predator, which by law requires him to be registered as a sex offender for life and subject to reporting changes of address with police, according to court documents. He first came to Centre County while serving that sentence at Rockview.
Shortly before his release date on Feb. 19, 2008, Demmitt told officials at Rockview that he either wanted to stay there or walk to the Centre County Correctional Facility because he had nowhere else to go. Because he had no residence, he said he did not intend to comply with the reporting requirements. He was arrested by state police the same day he was released, according to court documents.
The case went to trial in Bellefonte in January 2009 and Demmitt was found guilty, according to the opinion. However, during the trial, the trial court said it would instruct the jury that homelessness was a defense to the crime charged. David Crowley, Demmitt’s public defender, then delivered a closing argument based around that defense, the opinion states. The trial court did not instruct the jury on the homelessness charge, according to the Superior Court opinion.
Demmitt was sentenced to 1 to 7 years in state prison in February 2009 and is currently held at Graterford state prison in Montgomery County.
The retrial date is not set and may not come: the Centre County District Attorney’s Office can appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court, Crowley said.
District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said her office is considering its options and may appeal the ruling. Parks Miller said she believes the order the defendant wanted read to the jury and the one actually delivered are similar and the reversal is based on a technicality.
“I’m not completely convinced the Superior Court got that right,” she said.