A panel of jurors will be selected next week from a pool of about 60 to hear evidence in a public corruption trial for Westmoreland County Sheriff Jonathan Held.
Attorneys met Monday with Visiting Senior Common Pleas Judge Timothy Creany of Cambria County to iron out last-minute details, including the preparation of jury questionnaires and witness lists.
The trial is expected to begin Dec. 3 and last all week. Held is accused of ordering Sheriff’s department staffers to perform campaign chores while on the job.
Defense attorney Ryan Tutera said he shared with prosecutors a photograph of Held, 44, of Hempfield and President Trump that he plans to introduce as evidence. Tutera declined after a hearing to elaborate on the photograph.
“We can certainly talk about the relevance of that at the time of trial,” Deputy Attorney General Bobbi Jo Wagner said.
Held has maintained his innocence since agents with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office in February filed theft, diversion of services and conflict of interest charges.
Investigators contend Held, in an effort to bolster his re-election efforts, ordered staffers to work on fundraising activities that included collecting gift cards and guns for events dating back to 2014. Tutera has said the allegations against Held were raised by disgruntled former and current staffers in the sheriff’s office.
Creany on Monday denied Tutera’s bid to have all but two prosecution witnesses barred from testifying after prosecutors failed to turn over a witness list within a seven-day timeframe set by the court.
“It shouldn’t leave me guessing as to who they may or may not call,” Tutera said.
Wagner said she complied with the court order after inadvertently missing the due date. However, the defense has had other documents that detail witnesses against Held and their potential testimony, she said.
“There is nothing that I have that Mr. Tutera doesn’t have,” Wagner said. “He has the reports; he knows what their testimony is going to be.”
Creany said if either side is faced with a witness they weren’t expecting, attorneys can raise the issue again at trial.
Jury selection will begin in a Westmoreland County courtroom Monday morning.
“I’m hopeful that his reputation remains intact … and I’m hopeful that the jury finds him not guilty,” Tutera said of Held after the hearing.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter @byrenatta.