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Coaldale mayor recants his interview with police

Published December 15. 2012 09:02AM

The mayor of Coaldale, charged with 28 counts of child pornography, is seeking to suppress an interview he had with police investigators in May 2011 in which he allegedly admitted downloading child porn photos on a computer he used at his former employer.

Richard Corkery, 74, of 249 W. Early Ave., was in Carbon County court Friday morning attempting to have a county judge suppress an interview he gave on May 11, 2011, at his home.

The interview was conducted by Nesquehoning Police Chief Sean Smith, who filed the charges in the case, along with Special Agent John Bates, of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and state Trooper Scott Sotak, of the bureau of investigations specializing in computer crimes.

The hearing was held before Judge Steven R. Serfass.

The interview in question was requested by Smith after he received an anonymous letter alleging that Corkery had downloaded the pornography materials at radio station WLSH, where he worked part-time. Smith alleges that Corkery downloaded the images on six days between Feb. 15 and March 28, 2011.

Smith, who began his investigation on April 6, 2011, seized the computer from the station and had Sotak conduct an initial forensic examination to determine if pornographic pictures had been downloaded on the computer.

In his report Stotak indicated he found 34 such photos of young boys nude and in some cases performing sexual acts with other boys.

At that interview Smith claims that Corkery admitted downloading the photos but claimed he thought the boys were 18 and older.

Testimony given

At yesterday's hearing, Smith said he called Corkery on May 11 to set up the interview. He told Corkery the reason for his call and briefly about the nature of the interview.

Corkery agreed to met Smith on May 16. On that date Smith arrived at Corkery's home with Bates and Sotak.

He said Bates asked most of the questions and Sotak would intervene with his own when computer language was used.

Smith said when Corkery first met the three men and agreed to have them enter his home for the interview, he told him that he was not under arrest and that he could stop speaking with them whenever he chose and they would stop.

Bates testified that he did ask most of the questions and said at other times during the interview he told Corkery that he could terminate the interview at any time.

Sotak said Corkery told him he was looking at the website of the Philadelphia Catholic school where he attended when a "pop-up" site appeared which contained child pornography. He said he immediately deleted it.

Sotak said he indicated to Corkery that his initial examination showed that the child porn sites were not "pop-ups" all the time; that a search was done to find them.

A more extensive forensic examination of the computer was later done, Sotak said, and it resulted in more pornography being found.

Corkery, according to the interview, admitted to looking at some of the material, but denied it was done on purpose.

All three police agents said Corkery first spoke to them in the living room, the interview then moved to a sitdown talk in the kitchen, but eventually Corkery gave them a "guided tour"of his entire home, which featured many photographs of young males. Corkery eluded to his lifetime of coaching and mentoring young boys while he worked as a accountant in the Philadelphia area.

All three investigators said they never gave Corkery what is known as his Miranda Warnings, but all said they had told him he was not under arrest and could terminate the interview at anytime.

No initial warning

Corkery took the witness stand and agreed with most of what Smith said about arranging for the interview. However, he disagreed with the claim that he was told he was not under arrest when the officers' first arrived.

Corkery also said he was surprised when he saw three officers, as he only expected Smith.

Corkery claimed the officers did not mention anything about the fact he could terminate the interview until well after the officers had asked him numerous questions.

He also said the tour of his house began after he told the officers he had a letter from the Philadelphia school concerning the "pop-up" porn material. He said he called the school to report the incident and asked the principal to send him a letter stating that he made the report.

Corkery testified that he told the officers he would give them a copy of the letter, then took them to the basement where he had it. He said from there the tour continued.

He said he felt apprehension about the interview and also felt he couldn't terminate the interview if he wanted to.

He stated that at one point in the interview Bates told him it would be better for him to admit his involvement. That was in contrast to what Bates and the others testified to during their testimony.

Assistant District Attorney William E. McDonald, who is handling the case, asked Serfass to dismiss the motion to suppress because it has been filed too late, since over 11 months have passed since the charges were filed. He noted a higher state court decision to support that motion.

Defense Attorney Nicholas Quinn said that the delay in filing the motion was due to a lot of circumstances, including the fact a plea bargain was made from which his client decided to withdraw, and other delays in getting pre-trial discovery.

Serfass gave Quinn 15 days to submit a legal brief to support his motion and after that is filed, McDonald has 15 days to submit a brief in answer. Serfass said he will then review the testimony and legal briefs before making a decision.

Corkery has not attended a borough council meeting since his arrest, stating it would be better until everything is revolved.

Since his arrest the adult probation office moved to remove numerous photographs of young males from Corkery's home, which Serfass granted.

The case is currently scheduled for trial during the January 2013 term of court. However, most court observers feel that will not happen.

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