A former Mahoning Township police officer was placed on probation Tuesday after previously pleading guilty to forgery and false reports.
Marvin Z. Mertz, 35, of Lehighton, was placed on probation for a total of two years on counts of forgery of documents and making a false report concerning an accident. Senior Judge Richard W. Webb imposed the sentence.
Mertz admitted in July to making a false accident report for an incident that occurred on Jan. 30, 2007. According to the office of the state Attorney General, two men, who at the time were members of the Jim Thorpe Emergency Medical Services, took their vehicles to Lehigh Gorge State Park after 11 p.m. They were in separate vehicles and both testified they had accidents. They phoned Mertz, who was on duty at the time. Mertz had one of the two men strike a bridge post with his vehicle so that a report would state the crash occurred in Mahoning Township. In the case of the second person, Mertz claimed in an incident report that the man damaged his car in an accident on Gilbert's Hill Road, when it actually happened in Jim Thorpe. The two men were identified as Michael Pribila of Summit Hill and Anthony Quinn of Jim Thorpe.
In the forgery case Mertz admitted forging signatures on a National Rifle Association (NRA) firearms instructor application. He sought to renew his application to be a law enforcement firearms instructor.
Defense attorney Eric Dowdle told Webb that Mertz committed what was "basically foolish crimes." He said as a result of his action he lost his career, job and reputation and never can serve again as a police officer.
Dowdle asked the court to impose a probation sentence, saying Mertz had already suffered greatly for his mistakes.
Mertz apologized for his actions. He added, "No sentence you impose will be worse than the one I imposed on myself. I lost my career, my job and my reputation."
Deputy Attorney General William Davis was not as forgiving. He said Mertz's actions were a black mark on other police officers and betrayed the public's trust.
Davis said Mertz's actions made no senseand he only could surmise that Mertz did it to "show off" because "he was chief and could do what he wanted."
Davis also noted that while Mertz was facing prosecution on the false reports charges he committed the forgery offenses. He called Mertz's actions "deceitful behavior." He also called on Webb to send a message to the public that this type of behavior would not be tolerated.
Dowdle interjected that Mertz was seeing a psychiatrist to help him figure out why he did what he did.
Webb said that sentencing guidelines call for a term of probation up to 30 days in jail. He said, "Putting him in jail for 30 days would serve no purpose. He lost a career, his livelihood."
In addition to the probation period Webb ordered Mertz to perform 50 hours of community service, pay court costs and a $50 per month supervision fee while on probation.
The AG office prosecuted the case because the Carbon County District Attorney's Office recused itself because of its relationship with Mertz as a Mahoning police officer.