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Defense Attorneys Allege Retaliation, Ask Court to Remove DA From Case

by on April 08, 2015 6:00 AM

Two State College defense attorneys have returned to court, claiming they've been targets of retaliation by Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller -- and they're asking a judge for help.

It's the latest legal clash in what has become a high-profile battle pitting the DA's office against some local attorneys and government officials.

The retaliation claim comes from Sean McGraw and Andrew Shubin of the Shubin Law Firm. In new court documents the attorneys say Parks Miller has retaliated against them for requesting her phone records from the Centre County government. They allege that Parks Miller has refused to allow some of their clients to enter a special program for first-time offenders as a result.

Consequently, the attorneys want Parks Miller removed as the prosecutor from one case in particular involving a defendant named Justin Blake.

Blake faces felony charges of rape, trespassing and burglary from an incident that occurred over State Patty's Day weekend in 2014. McGraw previously tried to have Parks Miller removed from the case by alleging that the courts were biased in favor of the prosecution, but that argument failed to convince visiting Clinton County Judge J. Michael Williamson that Parks Miller should be disqualified.

McGraw used records of text messages between Centre County Judge Bradley Lunsford and Parks Miller (obtained through the county by a Right to Know request) to back up his allegations of bias. Parks Miller has repeatedly denied any impropriety or bias, and has argued that she is the victim of a politically and personally motivated conspiracy.

"These attempts to have the District Attorney disqualified will fail," Parks Miller's attorney Bruce Castor says in an email. "Of course the lawyers representing criminals are afraid of a hard charging, talented and capable woman and her staff."

The phone records and Right to Know requests used to obtain them are now the subject of three separate lawsuits against the county. One of those suits was filed by Parks Miller, and names McGraw and Shubin as defendants alongside the county -- but that's given new ammo to the two attorneys who want her removed from the Blake case.

"By alleging in her civil complaint that [McGraw and Shubin] are party to some form of 'conspiracy' against her, Parks Miller has generated an actual conflict of interest preventing her from discharging her duty to act as 'an administrator of justice,'" McGraw and Shubin write in court documents filed in the Blake case last week.

The two attorneys also claim that Parks Miller denied several requests for their clients to enter Pennsylvania's Accelerated Alternative Disposition program, which expunges records for first-time offenders and minor crimes. Shubin and McGraw claim that Parks Miller's denials came only days after she learned about their Right to Know requests, leading them to believe Parks Miller's decisions were "retaliatory gestures."

But Castor says the allegations of retaliation based on ARD denials are "complete nonsense."

"There is already in place a procedure to challenge in court an ARD denial and has been for decades," Castor says. "...I wonder why no motion [for reconsideration of the denied ARD applications] was filed in the cases cited."

McGraw declined comment, saying it would be inappropriate to discuss matters pending before the court.

 

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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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