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Affidavit Alleges Judge Texted DA During Trial

by on May 26, 2015 3:56 PM

A conflict embroiling local lawyers, judges and the district attorney is growing even more heated thanks to a new appeal in the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

As part of that appeal, a courthouse employee is now alleging that Court of Common Pleas Judge Bradley Lunsford and Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller texted each other in the courtroom about an ongoing trial in 2012.

“During one of the recesses…Judge Lunsford told me that he and the District Attorney were texting to each other during the four day trial,” reads an affidavit signed by former court reporter Maggie Miller.

“Then [Lunsford] complained that through texts, Stacy Parks Miller was ‘bitching to him’ about the way Judges Lunsford handled some objections and how he was handling the trial.”

Defense attorney Bernard Cantorna is now using that affidavit as part of an attempt to secure a new trial for Jalene McClure, who was convicted of aggravated assault of a minor last year.

Cantorna unsuccessfully attempted to have Lunsford removed from the McClure case before her conviction, arguing that phone records showed Lunsford had texted Parks Miller many times over the course of the trial. He claimed this frequent contact biased the court against McClure.

Cantorna obtained Lunsford’s phone records in the McClure case through a Right to Know request submitted to the county. Centre County has since been sued by Parks Miller and two judges, claiming those records were released illegally. An out-of-county judge presiding over those cases has ruled against the county twice.

Although Miller’s texting allegations do not stem from the McClure case, Cantorna says the new affidavit is “directly relevant to the independence of the trial court [and] the fundamental fairness of the proceedings.”

But Bruce Castor, an attorney for Parks Miller, says otherwise.

“The latest allegation is completely false, an outright lie,” Castor says in an email. “The press is being used, yet again, to generate headlines to hurt the reputation of the District Attorney, with an accusation that will never be proven.”

Castor says the allegations of inappropriate texting are unprovable hearsay that won’t stand up in court. He says he expects the appeal to fail.

Castor goes even further, accusing Cantorna of having a conflict of interest in the case.

Castor points out that Cantorna shares office space with Centre County Solicitor Louis Glantz, who was involved in the decision to release the phone records to Cantorna and other attorneys. The two lawyers also work together at Happy Valley Settlement Services in addition to their roles at other law firms.

Castor says he thinks the county conspired with Cantorna and other attorneys to release records and overturn convictions as part of a personally and politically motivated crusade against Parks Miller.

Glantz has previously told StateCollege.com that he and Cantorna are not particularly close. He and other county officials have also repeatedly denied the existence of any conspiracy.

Cantrona declined to comment when contacted by StateCollege.com. 

 

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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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