Crime

Judge severs Christopher Lee case into two trials, again denies release

Former Harris Township supervisor and Boal Mansion CEO Christopher Lee will stand trial not once, but twice.

Federal Judge Matthew W. Brann ordered Tuesday that charges against Lee be separated for trial at the request of Lee’s attorneys. He now faces trial on counts of enticement and transportation of minors for sexual purposes apart from child pornography and evidence tampering charges, according to court documents.

Kyle Rude, Lee’s attorney, asked that the charges against Lee be separated because trying all of them together could prejudice a jury against Lee, and because he is not accused of using the pornography to entice the minor, a 17-year-old boy.

Prosecutors opposed the motion and argued that the charges should be tried together because they involve the same evidence, witnesses and investigators, and a prior case heard in federal court involving the same charges as Lee found them to be similar in character and able to be tried together.

Brann agreed with the prosecution that child pornography and sex crimes involving children are related offenses, but agreed to separate trials because “it would be psychologically impossible for a jury to disregard the evidence of child pornography in deciding (d)efendant’s guilt of coercion and enticement, or vice versa,” thus creating “clear and substantial prejudice,” according to the filing.

In a separate ruling, Brann denied a motion by Lee’s attorney asking for his release for health reasons. Rude wrote last month that Lee suffers from vertigo and a prescribed change in diet and exercise to help with the symptoms was denied by the prison warden. Lee is being held at Columbia County Prison in Bloomsburg.

Although Brann wrote that Lee’s “allegedly deteriorating health may be unfortunate and regrettable,” there are no conditions that would assure Lee’s appearance for trial and the safety of the community if he were to be released.

Lee was indicted by a grand jury in October on enticement, transport of a minor with intent to engage in sexual activity and child pornography charges. Additional charges of evidence tampering and attempting to produce child pornography were added in March.

Lee maintains his innocence, Rude said.

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