Westmoreland prosecutors appeal judge’s evidence rulings in alleged rape case |

Westmoreland prosecutors appeal judge’s evidence rulings in alleged rape case

Rich Cholodofsky

Westmoreland County prosecutors have appealed a judge’s ruling that limited the evidence they can present in the trial of a Hempfield man accused of raping a woman who has since recanted the allegations.

Assistant District Attorney Barbara Jollie contends Common Pleas Court Judge Tim Krieger made five errors that substantially handicap the case against Harold Franks, 36, according to documents filed Friday.

The judge last month ruled that statements the woman made to police and medical personnel detailing the alleged sexual assault could not be used. Krieger also barred evidence that Franks had committed other potentially criminal violent acts and testimony that his alleged victim had previously obtained a protection of abuse order against him.

Jollie also wants the appeals court to reverse Krieger’s accepting as a fact in the case that Franks and the woman regularly engaged in rough consensual sex that involved one or both participants being struck. The judge’s finding would serve as evidence that prosecutors would have a tough time refuting, Jollie said in the appeal.

“Credibility is an issue for the jury, and the question for the jury is whether assault crimes occurred,” Jollie said.

Franks has denied the rape allegations. His alleged victim has since recanted, refused to testify, claimed no sexual assault occurred and said that she was drunk when she first spoke to police in October 2017.

The Tribune-Review does not identify alleged victims in cases of alleged sexual assaults.

Franks trial, which was scheduled to begin March 11, is likely to be postponed because of the prosecution’s appeal.

Franks has been in jail since his $125,000 bond was revoked in September. Defense attorney Heidi Norton has asked that Franks be released on a nominal bond, claiming prosecutors violated his right to a speedy trial. Krieger said he will hold a hearing next month on that request.

Separate criminal cases, including one for suspected drunken driving, are still pending against Franks.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293 or [email protected]