Crime

Bernard Cantorna, Sean McGraw make filings in Stacy Parks Miller lawsuit

District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller
District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller CDT photo

More legal filings were made in the lawsuit Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller filed in March against the county, local attorneys and their law offices as a hearing in the matter nears.

A hearing in the suit is scheduled before Huntingdon County Senior Judge Stewart L. Kurtz for 9 a.m. May 13 on the third floor of the Courthouse Annex. Lawyers for co-defendants in the suit, local attorneys Bernard Cantorna and Sean McGraw, each made filings in response to the suit Thursday.

Cantorna’s filing asks the court to dismiss him from the suit using similar arguments made by McGraw in another filing last week. Cantorna alleges that Parks Miller’s suit seeks to “restrain public criticism of her conduct in office.” Parks Miller is seeking the return of phone records she claims the county illegally released to the two attorneys and the destruction of any copies. Cantorna maintains that the public has the right to examine and maintain possession of the records, and destroying or returning them would violate the First Amendment.

Parks Miller initially filed her suit March 23. She alleges that commissioners Steve Dershem and Chris Exarchos, Administrator Tim Boyde and solicitor Louis Glantz, who shares an office with Cantorna, acted in conspiracy with Cantorna and McGraw to embarrass her and drive her from office.

In the filing made on behalf of McGraw and the law office he works for, Andrew Shubin’s firm, attorney Ron Barber denies involvement in any conspiracy but rather that McGraw acted because he was compelled by an obligation to his clients and to the court to present the matters on their behalf, and to challenge an “apparent breakdown” in integrity of court processes.

If anyone was embarrassed by the disclosure of the records, it is because they are of legitimate public interest and a topic for debate and discussion, the filing states.

Cantorna, Glantz and the commissioners have also denied any conspiracy.

Parks Miller claims that county officials illegally released phone records to the lawyers in response to Right-to-Know requests filed through county government. Both attorneys used the records — which indicate that texts and phone calls took place between Parks Miller and some of her assistants and members of the county judiciary — in court filings that allege the communications present issues of partiality, bias and due process violations against Cantorna’s client, Jalene McClure, and McGraw’s client, Justin Blake.

The records released did not offer the content of the calls and texts, though Parks Miller has said that she and her assistants have to be in contact with judges for a variety of reasons, like arrests and search warrants.

Parks Miller maintains the county violated the state Right-to-Know Law and her privacy rights by disclosing the records, which contain redacted phone numbers.

In addition to asking for the return and destruction of the records, Parks Miller is also asking the county be prohibited from releasing similar records in the future and also monetary damages and attorney’s fees.

Cantorna and McGraw have also factored in forgery allegations made against Parks Miller in January. During the public comment portion of the Jan. 20 commissioners meeting, Cantorna presented commissioners with a sworn affidavit from Michelle Shutt, a former paralegal in Parks Miller’s office, that alleged the district attorney forged the name of Judge Pamela Ruest on a court order. McGraw is Shutt’s attorney.

McGraw is also a co-defendant in a similiar lawsuit filed against the county by District Judge Kelley Gillette-Walker. A ruling is still pending in that suit and another filed against the county by Common Pleas Judge Jonathan D. Grine after a hearing also heard by Kurtz in early April.

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