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Trib seeking names of jurors from Westmoreland Sheriff Held’s mistrial

Rich Cholodofsky
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Rich Cholodofsky
Westnoreland County Sheriff Jonathan Held (left) with his attorney, Ryan Tutera, meet the news media following his mistrial.

The Tribune-Review will seek a court order to obtain the names of jurors who deliberated last week in the public corruption trial of Westmoreland County Sheriff Jonathan Held.

Common Pleas Judge Timothy Creany filed a court order Friday prohibiting the county’s Clerk of Courts from releasing the jury list.

“If any party seeks to obtain release of those names, an appropriate petition must be filed,” Creany wrote.

The Trib has sought the jury list, typically considered a public record, since Held’s trial ended Dec. 7 with a mistrial after jurors said they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict.

Seven men and five women deliberated for nearly six hours when they returned to the courtroom saying they had reached a verdict.

Reading from the verdict slip signed by all 12 jurors, Creany announced Held, 44, of Hempfield had been found guilty of a felony charge of conflict of interest and a misdemeanor count of theft.

As Held lowered his head and his crying girlfriend stormed from the courtroom, Creany individually polled each juror to confirm the announced verdict. Juror No. 6 wavered and told the judge he was the “last hold out” for guilty and he couldn’t affirm that finding.

The judge sent the jury back to deliberate. About 30 minutes later, the panel reported it could not reach a verdict, and a mistrial was declared.

Attempts to question jurors as they left the courthouse were unsuccessful. Several, including Juror No. 6, declined to comment.

The Trib requested the jury list several times this week, only to be rebuffed each time.

The state Supreme Court in 2007 ruled that juror lists are considered public record. The case was brought by the Tribune-Review after a Westmoreland County judge refused to release the names of jurors who convicted a Ligonier podiatrist of killing his wife in 1998.

The state’s high court eventually issued a 5-0 ruling, authored by then-Chief Justice Ralph Cappy, who wrote: “Disclosing jurors’ names furthers the object of a fair trial to the defendant and gives assurances of fairness to society as a whole.”

The ruling came with a caveat that juror names be kept secret if a judge rules doing so will keep them safe and protect them from tampering or harassment.

Held’s mistrial came after jurors heard three days of testimony and arguments from lawyers on charges that the sheriff directed his staff to perform campaign-related functions while at work.

Prosecutors said Held directed on-duty uniformed deputies and office staffers to secure donations for campaign fundraisers in 2015 and 2016. They used county equipment such as computers and cars for the campaign activities, prosecutors said.

The defense, which provided no evidence at trial, argued the accusations against Held were made up by a group of disgruntled employees who acted on their own to help the sheriff’s campaign. Held did not testify.

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro said he will seek to retry Held.

Creany has scheduled a status conference for Dec. 28 to discuss what happens next with the case.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293 or [email protected]

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