Thursday, July 24, 2008

Today's Suppression Hearing: Midday Update

The Times Leader is reporting that homicide suspect Joseph Kerekes testified that he twice asked authorities for an attorney after he was arrested in Virginia in May 2007 for the slaying of a Dallas Township man.

Kerekes, 34, also denied he made apparent self-incriminating statements during a meeting with Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. Leo Hannon Jr. and Special Agent James Glenn with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Kerekes made those statements during a pre-trial hearing today before Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr.

Kerekes and Harlow Cuadra, 26, both from Virginia Beach, are charged in the murder of Bryan Kocis, 44, in January 2007. They were arrested in Virginia Beach on May 15, 2007, on a fugitive warrant by Virginia Beach authorities. Earlier in the day, Hannon filed criminal homicide charges in Luzerne County accusing the two men with Kocis' killing.

Hannon and Glenn testified that after Kerekes was arrested by Virginia Beach authorities, they entered a room at the Virginia Beach Police Department to ask Kerekes for his date of birth and social security number.

Hannon said he makes it a point to read the defendant the criminal charges and the affidavit of probable cause that outlines events that led to the arrest.

As he read the affidavit, Hannon and Glenn testified that Kerekes made several apparent self-incriminating statements.

Kerekes, called to testify by Assistant District Attorney Michael Melnick, claimed he listened to Hannon, and twice asked for a lawyer.

Kerekes called the situation a "soap opera," saying, "I told him I didn't want to hear it. I put my head down and they went on. I asked twice for a lawyer. I never once head was down; I was just listening."

Kerekes' attorneys, Shelley Centini and John Pike, are attempting to disqualify any statements Kerekes made at his upcoming trial set to begin in September.

Olszewski raised the possibility that reading the affidavit to Kerekes may be an interrogation, due to the fact Kerekes had the right to remain silent.

The pre-trial hearing is set to continue for the rest of the day.

Meanwhile the Citizens' Voice reports that Accused killer Joseph Kerekes claimed Thursday that police ignored his requests for an attorney during an interrogation shortly after his May 2007 arrest for the murder of Bryan Kocis in Dallas Township four months earlier.

Kerekes said Cpl. Leo Hannon of the Pennsylvania State Police and Special Agent James J. Glenn of the FBI proceeded with questions about his background, employment, and personal relationships, and later read from the criminal complaint and affidavit of probable cause filed against him.

"They walked into the room and I said, 'I want a lawyer,'" Kerkes said during brief testimony that was limited to the post-arrest police interview. "It was the first thing out of my mouth."

Kerekes, 34, and Harlow Cuadra, 26, both of Virginia Beach, Va., are accused of slashing Kocis' neck to the point of near decapitation, stabbing his torso nearly 30 times and later setting fire to his Midland Drive, Dallas Township, home. They both face the death penalty and are scheduled to stand trial together beginning Sept. 2.

Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. heard arguments Thursday on the suppression of evidence, including the post-arrest interview and items seized from the Virginia Beach home where Cuadra and Kerekes had lived. The status of the interview consumed the bulk of the hearing conducted before a 12:25 p.m. lunch recess.

Hannon and Glenn both testified prior to Kerekes' testimony. Hannon said he was following a personal investigatory technique when he read the complaint and affidavit to Kerekes, but was unsure if the move was endorsed by Pennsylvania State Police protocol. Glenn said the FBI instructs its agents to provide a verbal synopsis of the charges against a defendant, only if the defendant has not requested an attorney.

Kerekes said he told the investigators to get his attorney and skip the reading of the documents. "I don't really want to hear it," Kerekes said, repeating what he told Hannon and Glenn during the interview, which was conducted in an interrogation room at the Virginia Beach police headquarters.

"It was a soap opera," Kerekes said of the criminal complaint and the affidavit. "It's inflammatory. They highlighted these parts. They wanted me to say something."

According to Hannon, Kerekes said he wanted to "tell the truth" toward the end of the interview. Hannon said he advised Kerekes to stop speaking and get an attorney.

"Knowing the totality of the circumstance, I cut him off, for lack of a better term," Hannon testified.