New trial set for April in public corruption case against Westmoreland sheriff |

New trial set for April in public corruption case against Westmoreland sheriff

Renatta Signorini
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Westmoreland County Sheriff Jonathan Held poses for a portrait inside the gun vault at the Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018.

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.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.