Thursday, December 4, 2008

Judge Denies Menn's Request... Again.

The Citizen's Voice reports that Luzerne County Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. issued an order Wednesday denying attorney Stephen Menn’s formal request to leave the court-appointed team representing accused killer Harlow Cuadra.

Menn, who gave notice last month that he plans to resign from the county’s conflict counsel pool at the end of the year, filed a written “Petition to Withdraw as Conflict Counsel” last Wednesday, an hour before the Luzerne County Courthouse closed for a two-day Thanksgiving holiday.

Menn, who said the intense county workload — including five homicide cases — has precluded him from focusing on his private practice in West Pittston, first asked to be removed from the case during a pretrial hearing on Nov. 20.

“The issue for you to resign from your position with the county as conflict counsel and your request to withdraw as counsel on this case are separate and distinct,” Olszewski told Menn at the hearing.

“I have obligations to a lot of people in this case,” Olszewski said. “Those obligations begin with the lives of the two defendants and the family of the victim, who have been here at every proceeding.”

Another pretrial hearing is scheduled for today at 9 a.m. on a defense request to suppress statements and evidence collected after Cuadra and co-defendant Joseph Kerekes were arrested for the January 2007 killing of Bryan Kocis in Dallas Township.

Cuadra, 27, and Kerekes, 34, both of Virginia Beach, Va., face the death penalty and are scheduled to be tried together beginning Jan. 5.

The two men were originally scheduled to stand trial beginning Sept. 2, but the removal of two other attorneys, Mark Bufalino and Paul Galante, forced a postponement.

The departure of another attorney would delay the start of the trial for least six more months, Olszewski said at the Nov. 20 hearing.

“That’s not going to happen,” Olszewski said.