New trial set for April in public corruption case against Westmoreland sheriff
A new jury will be empaneled April 1 to hear evidence in the public corruption case against Westmoreland County Sheriff Jonathan Held.
The jurors will hear new evidence after a prosecution motion was approved Friday to amend the criminal information against Held, 44, of Hempfield. Prosecutors plan to present testimony in Held’s retrial that he accompanied deputies to place campaign signs along the route of a police officer’s funeral procession in May 2015, said Deputy Attorney General Bobbi Jo Wagner.
Held is accused of directing his office staff, while on duty, to perform chores for his re-election campaign. A mistrial was declared earlier this month after jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict after three days of testimony.
The jury initially returned to the courtroom with a guilty on both counts it considered against the sheriff. But, during individual polling, one juror declined to confirm his verdict.
“(Prosecutors) shouldn’t benefit by the fact that a hung jury occurred,” Held’s attorney Ryan Tutera argued against the prosecution’s motion to add the evidence.
Tutera was considering whether to appeal that decision by Senior Common Pleas Judge Timothy Creany and a second one that denied a defense motion for acquittal. Held has maintained his innocence.
Tutera argued Friday that prosecutors presented insufficient evidence during the initial trial. He said the deputies who testified against Held were volunteering for his campaign and that “they wouldn’t be paid out of any general fund of the sheriff.”
“(Prosecutors) never proved how much money’s at stake, who reported this loss amount …we have no idea when this loss occurred,” Tutera said. “It’s their burden to show how much money was lost.”
Wagner disagreed, adding that Held allegedly got a “pecuniary benefit” from taxpayer funds.
“This is a public confidence case, this isn’t a dollar amount case,” she said. “This guy used his office as a campaign office.”
Held, a Republican, is in his second four-year term as sheriff. He was re-elected in 2015. He has not said if he plans to run for re-election this year.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter @byrenatta.