SUNBURY — The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in numerous criminal cases being delayed in Northumberland County, but has not prevented police from continuing to make arrests.
“Our office has been adversely affected by the virus, which has created even more of a backlog in cases than we initially had,” said Northumberland County District Attorney Tony Matulewicz. “But everyone is continuing to work to the best of their ability in our office and law enforcement in general to make the best of the situation. No one could have predicted the global pandemic we are facing and nobody knows how long it is going to last.”
Matulewicz said there have been no layoffs in his office due to the coronavirus. The DA’s office has nine full-time and two part-time employees, including five assistant district attorneys.
“We have a liberal leave policy for our employees that allows them to take comp time, sick days or vacation days when we aren’t as busy,” Matulewicz said. “That option is open to our employees during this unprecedented time.”
With numerous continuances being granted for preliminary hearings, court motions and other legal proceedings, Matulewicz said a “massive backlog” has occurred in the criminal justice system.
But he quickly pointed out that police are continuing to arrest people who break the law.
“Crime doesn’t stop,” he said. “It’s like a continuous conveyor belt. The coronavirus isn’t stopping police and other law enforcement officials from doing their jobs.”
Matulewicz said his office prosecuted approximately 2,100 adult criminal cases and more than 200 juvenile cases last year and said the caseload may increase this year.
Matulewicz pointed that all hearings and arraignments at the magisterial district judge’s offices and county Court of Common Pleas are being conducted by video.
Although the DA’s office will eventually have to deal with the trickle effects of the cases being delayed at the magisterial level, Matulewicz said postponing most of the legal proceedings and temporarily closing county offices including the courthouse to the public were definitely smart decisions by Northumberland County President Judge Charles H. Saylor and county commissioners.
“I believe Judge Saylor did a good job by instituting his order regarding court operations during the coronavirus,” the district attorney said. “And the commissioners also made the right decision in closing down all other county offices to the public.”
He said some murder cases and other legal proceedings dealing with more serious crimes have either been delayed due to the coronavirus or were previously continued.
Matulewicz said the murder trial for Jose Colon, 43, of Shamokin, is still scheduled to start June 8 with jury selection. He said the trial is scheduled to last two weeks.
Colon is charged by Shamokin police with murdering 23-year-old Kasandra Ortiz on Feb. 26, 2018, in the city and later firing shots at police during a standoff at his apartment.
He remains in Northumberland County Jail.