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Centre County Officials, Bellfonte Police Move Forward With Investigation of DA Forgery Allegations

by on January 26, 2015 3:32 PM

Centre County officials and Bellefonte police are both moving forward with investigations into allegations that Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller forged a judge's signature on a fake court order.

Bellefonte Police Chief Shawn Weaver confirms in an email that his department conducted a search of Parks Miller's office over the weekend. He says this investigation is ongoing, and that he can't release any further details.

"I would expect this investigation to be nearing its end," Weaver says.

Bellefonte police also examined the alleged forgery that sparked the investigation. On Jan. 22, Centre County President Judge Thomas Kistler signed an emergency order releasing the alleged forgery to the Bellefonte Borough Police Department "as temporary custodian for purposes of examination." The order requests that police return the document to the court by Monday, Jan. 26.

Centre County Commissioner Steve Dershem says the county government is looking to appoint a special investigator "sooner rather than later" to investigate the claims made by Michelle Shutt, a former paralegal in Parks Miller's office. In a sworn affidavit dated Dec. 30, 2014, Shutt alleges that Parks Miller instructed her to type a fake bail order in a criminal case, which she then claims Parks Miller signed with Centre County Judge Pamela Ruest's name.

Centre County Solicitor Louis Glantz was charged by the commissioners last week to petition the court to appoint a special investigator, and he says he's wasted no time moving the process along.

"I'm not sure if this will be within this next week or the following week, but we're working on it right now," Glantz says.

Centre County Administrator Tim Boyde says the appointment of a special investigator is only the first half in a two-part process. Once an investigator is hired -- likely from outside Centre County to avoid bias -- this special position will attempt to determine if Shutt's allegations are true. If there is evidence that supports Shutt's claims, the county will then petition the court to appoint a special prosecutor, who may or may not be the same person as the investigator, to handle any criminal charges that may be filed.

Dershem says the investigation will be funded from the Centre County general fund. Though the expense is an unexpected one, he adds that the county has the resources to fund a just and thorough investigation. He was unable to speculate on how the investigation may ultimately cost.

"We are working tirelessly to get to be fair and get to the truth of this," Dershem says. "As a lifelong resident of this county, I expect our criminal justice system to be beyond reproach. Everyone should expect to be treated fairly."

In a statement provided by her attorney, Parks Miller denies the allegations and instead accuses Shutt of making false reports. She says she brought the allegations to the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General, whom she says is currently investigating the matter.

Representatives from the Attorney General's Office declined to confirm or deny the existence of this investigation. 

Boyde says the Centre County District Attorney's Office will continue to perform its daily duties, though he acknowledges the investigation "is something of a cloud hanging over our justice system." He says the allegations may or may not fuel increased appeals in criminal cases in Centre County, but adds that "these are allegations, not indictments" and says that the courts can not simply come to a stop while this matter remains unresolved.

"Getting to the bottoms of these allegations is more important than worrying about the possible outcomes," Dershem says.

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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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