A Lehighton man pleaded guilty in Carbon County court on Tuesday to his part in a fight at the county prison that resulted in charges being filed against five inmates. He was one of 15 defendants to enter a guilty plea before Judge Joseph J. Matika.
Scott T. Heffelfinger, 25, pleaded to one count each of simple assault and persistent disorderly conduct for his part in a fight that occurred at the county prison on April 7. Heffelfinger was one of five charged in connection with the incident.
Also charged were inmates Robert W. Monroe Jr., Marquise Timonty Granger, Joshua Michael Strohl, and Maurice Jamal Hampton.
Nesquehoning police investigated the incident and reported the fight caused injuries to several inmates and correction officers who tried to break it up.
Police Chief Sean Smith said his investigation revealed that Monroe and Hampton were trying to extort commissary from weaker inmates.
Surrveillance video of the incident was reviewed by Smith and County Detective Timothy Nothstein. The charges were filed after the video was reviewed and numerous interviews were conducted with inmates and correction officers.
Heffelfinger admitted striking Hampton during the incident. The plea was to simple assault by mutual consent. Hampton was scheduled to plea to his part of the fight yesterday but his case was continued.
Heffelfinger was serving a 10 to 23 months prison term at the time of the incident and rermains incarcerated on that sentence.
Heffelfinger also pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorized use of an automobile in a separate matter. He was arrested by Palmerton police for an incident on Aug. 3, 2011. He was charged with operating a vehicle owned by Joann Schoenberger, which had been previously reported stolen. He was not charged with the theft of the vehicle.
Matika deferred sentencing and ordered the adult probation officer to prepare a presentence investigation (PSI). Part of the PSI includes a question concerning restitution for medical bills incurred by a corrections officer injured in the melee.
Other defendants who entered pleas included:
Shawn Michael Neff, 27, of Lehighton, pleaded to one count of resisting arrest. He was charged for an incident on Nov. 8, 2011, in the area of 591 Main Road, in Franklin Township.
Township police responded to the area at the request of Lehighton police who were seeking to serve an arrest warrant on Neff. Police had received information he was residing in the area. Neff fled into nearby woods but was eventaully caught. He then resisted police when they attempted to take him into custody.
Matika deferred sentencing and ordered a PSI.
Timothy Joseph Moran, 41, of White Haven, pleaded guilty in two separate cases but with the same facts. He admitted to taking $3,400 from Paul Borzell to replace a roof on the victim's home in Lake Harmony but never did the work. He pleaded to taking $3,900 from Barbara Kohler, to replace the roof on her home in Kidder Township. The work was never done.
He pleaded to one count each of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and theft by deception.
It was noted that Kohler has been repaid. Sentencing was deferred for 30 days. As part of a plea agreement if Moran repays the victims in full by the day of sentencing a probation term would be imposed. If not, he faces a jail term.
He told the court he has the money to repay Borzell the $3,400 but didn't realize the victim, who resides in New York state, is seeking $1,100 in compensation for loss work and travel time to attend court proceedings. He asked for the delay to get the other funds. Matika granted the request.
Cynthia L. Croman, 44, of Pocono Lake, pleaded to one count of driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol. She was arrested on Nov. 23, 2011, along SR940 in Kidder Township by state police at Fern Ridge. Given a test, the result was .21BAC.
Matika sentenced her to serve 10 days to six months in jail, a fine of $500, one year license suspension, get a drug and alcohol (D&A) evaluation and follow any recommendation for treatment, zero tolerance imposed on D&A use, and render 100 hours of community service. She will begin the jail term at 9 a.m. on Nov. 23.
Brandon Leslie, 24, of Palmerton, pleaded to one count of DUI. He was arrested on Dec. 5, 2011, along Catawissa St., in Nesquehoning, by borough police. Given a test, the result showed the presence of a controlled substance.
He was sentenced to serve 72 hours to six months in jail, a fine of $1,000, one year license suspension, get a D&A evaluation, zero tolerance on D&A use, and render 25 hours of community service. The sentence runs concurrent with a probation violation sentence he is currently serving in Lehigh County prison.
Anthony Louis Seo, 29, of Palmerton, pleaded to one count of DUI and six summary violations. He was arrested on Feb. 12 along Delaware Avenue in Palmerton by borough police. Given a test, the result was .26BAC.
Sentencing was deferred so Seo could apply for placement in the county's Intermediate Punishment Program (IPP) with electronic monitoring.
Adam Stratchko, 24, of Nesquehoning, pleaded to one count each of DUI and resisting arrest. He was arrested on Nov. 28, 2011, along SR54 by Nesquehoning police. Given a test, the result showed the presence of a controlled substance.
While being placed into custody he resisted arrest and had to be physically subdued.
Sentencing was deferred so he could apply for the IPP.
Richard R. Harvilla, 38, Philadelphia, and formerly of Lansford, pleaded to a summary offense of public drunkenness. A charge of theft was dropped. He was charged for an incident on May 19 along Patterson St., in Lansford.
Matika sentenced him to time served, two days in jail, and he was paroled.
Clark Adam Johnson, 35, of Palmerton, pleaded to one count of DUI. He was arrested on Feb. 15 along Spruce Hollow Road, in Towamensing Township, by state police at Lehighton. Given a test, the result showed the presence of a controlled substance.
Matika sentenced him to serve 72 hours to six months in jail, a fine of $1,000, one year license suspension, get a D&A evaluation, zero tolerance on D&A use, and render 25 hours of community service. On a summary charge of stop signs violation he was fined $25 and costs.
He will begin the jail term on Nov. 30 at 7 a.m.
Candice Lee Shipwash, 26, of Lehighton, pleaded to one count of retail theft. She was arrested by Mahoning Township police for an incident on Oct. 14, 2010, at the Walmart store. She took merchandise valued at $201.49.
She was previously placed in the county's Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition (ARD) probation program for first time offenders but was revoked for not completing all conditions.
Matika placed her on probation for a year and ordered she render 50 hours of community service work.
Kyle Hagenbach, 18, of Lehighton, pleaded to one count of criminal mischief, and a summary offense of reckless driving. He was arrested on Aug. 16 by Summit Hill police for what police said was a road rage incident with Nicholas Kokinda the listed victim.
He was placed on probation for a year and ordered to make restitution of $699.60 to the victim, render 50 hours of community service, attend and complete anger management counseling, and have no contact with the victim. On the summary offense he was fined $200 and costs.
Harry G. Foerster Jr., 50, of Levittown, formerly of Summit Hill, pleaded to two summary offenses of scattering rubbish and disorderly conduct. He was arrested by Summit Hill police for an incident on Aug. 12 in the area of 105 E. Ludlow St.
On the scattering charge Matika imposed a fine of $50 and costs; and on the conduct charge a fine of $100 and costs.
Jason Wilk, 23, of Lehighton, pleaded to one count of possession of a controlled substance-oxycodone. He was arrested on July 23 at the county prison by Nesquehoning police. He was brought to the prison by state police on other charges and attempted to bring the drug into the jail.
Matika deferred sentencing to a later date.
Marie Caruso, 49, of Summit Hill, pleaded to one count of persistent disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor three, and a summary count of disorderly conduct. She was arrested by borough police for an incident at 129 E. Fell St. where police responded and found her causing a disturbance.
She told Matika that alcohol was her problem and that she addressed it by going into a inpatient program for 30 days and is currently in a outpatient counseling program.
Matika placed her on probation for six months on the first count and ordered she render 25 hours of community service, continue her counseling, and zero tolerance on D&A use.
Matika ruled the summary charge merges with the misdemeanor count for sentencing purposes.
Jesse Lee Hackman, 19, of Ferndale, Cambria County, pleaded to one count of possession of drug paraphernalia. He was arrested on Dec. 17, 2011, by state police at Lehighton following a traffic stop along SR248 at the Palmerton exit.
Matika placed him on probation for six months and ordered he get a D&A evaluation, zero tolerance imposed on D&A use, and render 25 hours of community service. The term runs consecutive to a probation sentence he is currently serving.
All defendants sentenced must also pay court costs, which average close to $1,000, and pay a $50 per month supervision fee while on probation or parole.