Embattled Westmoreland County Sheriff Jonathan Held is scheduled to appear in court Monday morning for a hearing on a series of issues in preparation for his criminal trial slated to begin in December.
Held, 44, of Hempfield, is awaiting trial on three public corruption offenses in which he is accused of ordering sheriff department staffers to perform campaign chores while on the job.
Late last month, defense attorney Ryan Tutura filed pretrial motions seeking to have the criminal case against Held dismissed, saying there is not enough evidence to support the allegations against the two-term Republican sheriff.
Held has maintained his innocence since agents with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office in February filed two charges of theft and one charge of conflict of interest.
Investigators contend Held, in an effort to bolster his re-election efforts, ordered staffers to work on fundraising activities that included the collection of gift cards and guns for events dating back to 2014. Tutura has said the allegations against Held were raised by disgruntled former and current staffers in the sheriff’s office.
Visiting Senior Common Pleas Court Judge Timothy Creany of Cambria County will hear pretrial motions from both Held’s team and the prosecution, which includes the defense’s challenge of the evidence as well as a request from prosecutors to turn over the sheriff’s campaign records.
Jury selection for Held’s jury trial is tentatively scheduled to begin Dec. 3.
Meanwhile, the sheriff’s department administrative team continues to be in disarray.
Held’s second-in-command, Chief Deputy Patricia Fritz continues to work from home, having been barred from county property including the courthouse by county commissioners. Fritz, 63, of Mt. Pleasant, served two-weeks on paid suspension before being reinstated by Held last month.
A hearing is scheduled Oct. 2 before Greensburg District Judge Chris Flanigan on a summary harassment charge filed last month against Fritz in connection with allegations that she had a physical confrontation with the president of the union that represents deputy sheriffs.
Fritz has denied the allegation and has attempted to file a private criminal complaint against sheriff’s Cpl. Steven Felder, who she claimed initiated the violent confrontation. The district attorneys office so far refused to prosecute Felder.
The department’s third-in-command, Capt. Travis Day, continues be off work on unpaid suspension. Day, 24, of Jeannette, was charged in August with a summary harassment offense in connection with allegations made against him while attending a 19-week sheriff’s training course in State College.
Day’s hearing on the criminal charge is scheduled for Oct. 9 in State College.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293 or [email protected]