Sheriff Held’s attorney wants judge to bar potential witnesses in public corruption trial
State prosecutors have ignored a court order to submit a list of witnesses planning to testify against Westmoreland County Sheriff Jonathan Held in his public corruption trial, which is scheduled to begin next month, his attorney said Tuesday.
Defense lawyer Ryan Tutera asked a judge to bar all but two witnesses from testifying against Held. Senior Common Pleas Court Judge Timothy Creany during a hearing last month ordered the prosecution to turn over its witnesses list by Nov. 7. So far, they have not, Tutera said.
That “constitutes not only a direct disobeying of this court, but it also acts as prejudice to the defendant as he should not be subject to unfair surprise,” Tutera wrote in a court filing.
He wants to limit the prosecution to the two witnesses who testified against Held during a preliminary hearing in February.
Representatives from the state attorney general’s office could not be reached for comment.
Held, 44, of Hempfield, is awaiting trial on charges of conflict of interest and two counts of theft. Investigators contend the two-term sheriff ordered deputies and office staff to perform campaign chores while on duty.
One former deputy and a current officer testified at Held’s preliminary hearing that he directed them to seek donations to a fundraiser for the sheriff’s reelection efforts. Held has denied the allegations and contends they were made by disgruntled staffers.
Jury selection for the trial is scheduled to begin Dec. 3.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293 or [email protected]