WEST CHESTER — A criminal trial is scheduled for 9 a.m. Aug. 5 for Michael Robel, a state constable from Zerbe Township who has been accused by a Chester County detective of using his elected position and authority for personal profit.
Robel, of 108 Birch Road, is facing felonies of bribery, conflict of interest and accepting improper influence and a misdemeanor of statement of financial interests.
Bernard Sean Martin, of the Chester County District Attorney’s Office, claims Robel used his law enforcement position for private security interests related to the Mariner East Pipeline project and failed to report his $27,995 income for 2018, as required by the state Public Official and Employee Ethics Act.
Records show Robel, who turns 59 on Friday, was subcontracted to work security by a Harrisburg company doing business as Raven Knights. The constable was required and asked to provide copies of his state constable and firearm cards as a condition of employment.
Robel, who remains free on $25,000 unsecured bail, was a successful write-in candidate for the constable position in Zerbe Township in 2015. His term expires in December 2021, according to Northumberland County Election records.
A Pennsylvania state constable is an elected office held in all Pennsylvania townships, boroughs and cities, except Philadelphia. Constables have the authority in Pennsylvania to serve subpoenas, civil process and arrest warrants anywhere within the commonwealth, and to conduct warrantless arrests for felonies and breaches of the peace committed in their presence.
Constables are sworn law enforcement officers elected at the municipal level to six-year terms; however, state law governs constables.
According to the Pennsylvania Constitution, removal of an elected official requires the elected official’s conviction of an infamous crime or the common law crime of misbehavior in office.
A court is authorized to remove an elected official upon his or her conviction of an infamous crime, such as forgery, perjury, embezzlement of public moneys and bribery.
Misbehavior in office occurs when there is the breach of a positive statutory duty or the performance by a public official of a discretionary act with an improper or corrupt motive.
SHAMOKIN — What started out as a search for a wanted person Wednesday morning escalated into a daylong roundup of numerous people by multiple agencies leading to the discovery of heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana, drug paraphernalia and cash.
In all, 16 local residents were committed to jail on warrants and some face additional drug charges.
Police from Shamokin, Coal Township and Kulpmont, agents from the U.S. Marshals Service, state and county parole officers and state police assisted with the busts involving seven separate incidents in the Shamokin area.
Patrolman Raymond Siko II, who headed the investigation, said officers were requested at 8:46 a.m. to assist U.S. Marshal Service agents with locating a wanted female. After attempting to locate the woman at multiple locations in the city, police found her and Richard Geidosh Jr., who also was wanted, at a home at 951 W. Holly St. minutes later.
The woman, who was not identified by police, was taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals Service, while Geidosh was transported to Northumberland County Jail.
At 10:24 a.m., police were summoned to 623 S. Market St., where authorities were searching for a wanted male who was not at the home. Sean Best, of Shamokin, who was wanted by police, was found at the Market Street residence and taken into custody by county probation officers and transported to the county jail.
While searching the Market Street home, authorities apprehended Amanda Bentley and Jesse Weit, both of Shamokin, who climbed out a second-story window in an attempt to escape.
Bentley and Weit, who were both wanted by the county sheriff’s office, were taken into custody.
Police also located Tyler Jeffrey, of Shamokin, Jeremy Gundy, of Kulpmont, Brianna Bland, of Shamokin, Shannon Taylor, of Shamokin, Floyd Taorima, of Shamokin, and Jeffrey Williams, of Shamokin, in the home. Taormina, who was wanted by the county sheriff’s office, and Williams, who was wanted on a warrant out of Montour County, were incarcerated.
Gundy, Bland, Taylor and Jeffrey were released.
Siko said heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine, cash and drug paraphernalia were found throughout the home.
He said multiple charges are pending against everyone except Taylor and Jeffrey.
At 11:37 a.m., police were summoned to 69 E. Dewart St. to assist state parole agents in their search for a wanted male.
Siko said the owner of the property arrived on scene and granted permission to law enforcement officials to enter the home.
He said an unidentified male and female, who were both wanted, were taken into custody and incarcerated.
While searching the premises, Siko said authorities found a trap door in a closet with a ladder built into a wall that led to a space inside the walls and foundation of the home, where police located Glen Taormina (brother of Floyd Taormina) and Jenna Sebasovich, both of Shamokin, who were both wanted on warrants and committed to the county jail.
Siko said a large quantity of methamphetamine and heroin, cash, marijuana and drug paraphernalia were seized at 69 E. Dewart St.
At 1:40 p.m., police received a call regarding suspicious people walking around a yard at 69 E. Dewart St. Police located a suspicious orange sport utility vehicle traveling on East Dewart Street near Coal Street and conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle at the bottom of Dewart Street just off Route 61 across the highway from Jack Williams Tire and Auto Service Center.
The SUV was occupied by Jeremy Gundy, Cheyenne Swartz, of Shamokin, Brianna Bland and Jessica Wywadis, of Kulpmont. Siko said charges are pending against all four people. Bland, who was wanted, was taken to the county jail. Gundy, Swartz and Wywadis were released.
Motorists on Route 61 going toward and coming off the Cameron Bridge were forced to slow down with the presence of multiple police vehicles parked along the road.
A 3:59 p.m., officers spotted Justin Dobson, of Shamokin, who was wanted, walking in the parking lot at Weis Markets. Following a brief foot pursuit, Dobson was taken into custody. He suffered an injury while fleeing from police and was taken by AREA Services ambulance to Geisinger-Shamokin Area Community Hospital, where he was treated and released before being transported to the county jail.
Coal Township Patrolman Cody Rebuck suffered a minor knee injury during the chase.
At 5:15 p.m., police responded to Second and Water streets for a reported fight involving Andrew Britton, 37, of 223 E. Cameron St., Shamokin, who was wanted by the sheriff’s department and incarcerated at the county jail.
Britton was later charged by Cpl. Bryan Primerano with possessing heroin and possessing drug paraphernalia.
Police also took three individuals into custody at 305 E. Sunbury St. at 5:17 p.m.
Primerano said drug charges are pending against Weselley Markwith, 37, and Jennifer Warsheski, 33, both of 305 E. Sunbury St., and Ashley Campbell, 33, of Shamokin.
Primerano said methamphetamine, heroin, packaging materials, a digital scale, Xanax, a glass smoking device and syringes were found in the home.
Markwith and Campbell, who were both wanted, were incarcerated at the county jail, while Warsheski was released.
MANDATA — Students in the Line Mountain School District will have the option of attending either in-person or virtual instruction when classes resume on Monday, Aug. 24.
Superintendent Dave Campbell presented the district’s Health and Safety Plan during a public school board meeting via Zoom Tuesday night. The meeting was recorded and has been posted on the district’s website after some members of the public could not access it because of a 100-person attendance limit.
Campbell said the first day of school will likely be changed from Aug. 17 to Aug. 24 during the board’s next meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4, to allow more time to prep computers. The date also aligns with the start date of Mount Carmel and Shamokin area school districts, which jointly oversee the Northumberland County Career and Technology Center.
He noted that only 20 of more than 500 computers purchased through COVID-19-related funding have been delivered.
The 44-page Health and Safety Plan is based on the district’s capability to follow state, local and federal guidelines, and was developed to reduce the level of risk, but does not completely eliminate risks and exposure, the plan states.
Families may choose between in-person instruction, using social distancing and personal protective equipment enhancements established by the district, or mandatory synchronous instruction, in which students would log on and view their teacher deliver live instruction at certain times of the school day.
Campbell said parents have the freedom of moving between in-person and remote instruction if personal circumstances change.
The district is also preparing hybrid and full-online instruction options incase state guidance forces the district to abandon in-person instruction.
“I still have concerns that we may hear from our governor, Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) or (Dr. Rachel Levine) that we cannot go back to school until a certain date — and then we will have to do full online-instruction,” Campbell said. “Let’s hope we don’t get shut down. Because, if we do, we won’t have any choice and it will be full online-instruction.”
Campbell told board members that the hybrid option of learning would be necessary for grades five to 12, unless students wear masks most of the school day due to the lack of social distancing opportunities in those grade levels. That decision will also be made during the board’s meeting on Aug. 4.
When social distancing is not possible face coverings would be required during the state mandate implemented by Gov. Tom Wolf on July 3. When the face coverings are no longer mandated, the district would continue to encourage the use of personal protective equipment.
Face coverings and assigned seating would be required on buses, which will be disinfected daily after a.m. routes are completed. The district is encouraging parents to transport their children to school.
For in-person instruction, the school district has purchased 15,000 face coverings for students and staff. Large group gatherings will be limited and hallway traffic will be minimized.
“I think, right now, the masks are a huge concern,” Campbell said, who added that it was very difficult for him to wear a mask four hours at a recent gathering. “Some people understand that it will be very, very difficult and practical to have a child wear a mask for seven straight hours. I think even the PDE recognizes that when they say we must give times when students can go somewhere and remove their masks.”
Campbell said the district believes it’s imperative for parents to understand their role in keeping their children safe. He said the school could conduct screenings, but an exposure will already have occurred if an affected student rides a bus. He added that informational material about self-screenings will be sent to parents.
“When in doubt, keep your children home,” he stated. “We can get them online and we can catch them up. If they never get into a bus or into a classroom because they were screened at home, exposure issues are limited. The district will operate until further notice with this concept when considering attendance issues.”
Campbell said the district has reason to believe that between 10 and 25% of district students may choose the online option. He said if 25%, or 275 students, would attend an outside cyber school it would cost the district more than $3 million.
“Tonight, we are reaching out to the community asking no matter where you stand on the COVID-19 issue, that we unite as one community on a flexible plan that protects, to the best ability, our most important asset: and that’s our students,” Campbell remarked. “If flexibility and respect are not honored or our priority, it could cost the district millions of taxpayers dollars, if students choose outside cyber schools.”
Campbell stressed that cyber schools “are not free” and provided a list of seven cyber charter schools that have cost the district a minimum of $12,000 per student. He is among several superintendents statewide who have asked legislators to freeze tuition rates from cyber schools.
“Although we have received countless mandates and countless expectations that we must follow, we still haven’t heard a response on a simple request to freeze the increase on cyber school tuitions,” Campbell said. “We totally understand if you are not comfortable sending your child to school, we just asked that you consider using our cyber school or synchronous online learning with our teachers.”