The warrant that Bellefonte police used to search District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller’s office Saturday provides new details into the forgery allegations made against her by a former paralegal with her office.
The warrant was issued Jan. 24 by Clinton County President Judge Craig P. Miller, who will hear any matters regarding Parks Miller. A court order signed Jan. 23 by Judge Pamela A. Ruest disqualified Centre County judges from handling the case and referred the matter to Miller. Officers took a laptop with a flash drive, an iPad and a Galaxy S5 cellphone — all county-owned items — in the search, the warrant indicates.
The DA’s former paralegal, Michelle Shutt, signed an affidavit Dec. 30 alleging that Parks Miller had instructed her to study orders written by 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 DA to file it with the Prothonotary’s Office to “set up Ryan Richard by using (d)efendant, Robert Albro.”
The affidavit of probable cause to secure the warrant, written by Bellefonte police Detective Robert Ruggiero, also provided details about Richard and Albro.
Richard, an inmate at Centre County prison, allegedly “solicited the assistance” of Albro to kill a Centre County assistant district attorney in spring 2013, while Albro was imprisoned there on drug charges. Albro’s attorney contacted police about cooperation to get a better plea deal, according to the affidavit.
A court order appointed Steve Trialonas as Albro’s attorney on March 14, 2013, but that order was suspended by a May 30 order from Judge Bradley P. Lunsford, and State College attorney Matt McClenahen was named Albro’s counsel, according to court documents.
Trialonis, who represents Richard, said he was unaware of any contact between Albro and police and never approached police or the District Attorney’s Office on Albro’s behalf. He was pulled from the case because of a conflict unknown to him, he said.
McClenahen said he was appointed as counsel because Trialonas represented both men. Albro had already contacted state police about the alleged solicitation by the time McClenahenwas appointed, McClenahen said, adding that he was aware of the contact.
He had no knowledge of a forged order, McClenahen said.
The District Attorney’s Office and state police started an investigation of Richard based on the report, and Parks Miller determined that it would be necessary to make it appear as though Albro had been released from prison, according to the affidavit. Albro was transferred to Clearfield County Prison “on or about July 29, 2013,” under a false name, according to the affidavit.
Clearfield County Prison Warden Greg Collins told the Centre Daily Times that Albro was at the facility from July 29, 2013, until Feb. 26, 2014.
The document in question, an order changing Albro’s bail from $100,000 to 10 percent of that amount, was filed with the Prothonotary’s Office on Sept. 9, 2013, but dated July 18, 2013. According to the affidavit, the alleged order was prepared by Shutt and signed by Parks Miller “on or around Sept. 9, 2013.”
Ruest did not authorize her signature and was unaware of the order and any investigation of Richard, and at no time intended for Albro’s bail to be reduced, Ruggiero wrote in the affidavit.
Ruggiero also wrote in the affidavit that he viewed emails from “what appears to be” Parks Miller’s email address to members of the state police and a deputy attorney general prosecuting Albro in regard to the investigation of Richard.
Court documents indicate Deputy Attorney General Pat Leonard prosecuted the Albro case. Leonard declined to comment.
Bellefonte police said in a press release after the search that Parks Miller is also being investigated for theft of services. Shutt told police that Parks Miller directed her staff to perform tasks related to her re-election campaign in 2013, the affidavit states. Parks Miller ran unopposed in that contest.
Parks Miller denies the forgery allegations.
Bruce Castor Jr., her attorney and former district attorney of Montgomery County, said there is a long line of cases that allow law enforcement to use ruses to get suspects to incriminate themselves. Making the details of the search warrant public record is “reckless” and “unconscionable,” he said, and any current or future criminal investigations are now compromised. Mechanisms are in place to seal such sensitive documents, he said.
“This is what happens when you have police officers, not lawyers, supervising sensitive search warrants,” he said.
Castor said Bellefonte police do not have jurisdiction to investigate the allegations; the search on Saturday is “illegal”; and the matter should be handled by the state Attorney General’s Office.
Parks Miller said in a statement last week that she referred the matter to that office, which is conducting an investigation.
The Attorney General’s Office declined to comment, spokesman Aaron Sadler said.
Shutt’s attorney, Sean McGraw, declined to comment on the search but said neither he nor his client had been contacted by Harrisburg.
“I have never been contacted by the Attorney General’s Ofice and Michelle Shutt has never been contacted by the Attorney General’s Office,” he said.