SUNBURY — A mistrial was declared Wednesday in the case of a Coal Township man facing drug charges, but the defendant lated pleaded guilty to one charge.
After reconvening from lunch at about 1:20 p.m., Northumberland County Judge Hugh Jones told the jury he was declaring a mistrial for 49-year-old Steven Robert Markowitz because of an incident involving three jurors that occurred during a lunchtime break in the trial.
Jones declined to comment when asked for details regarding the incident.
The News-Item was later informed that three of the 12 female jurors were allegedly drinking alcohol during lunch and that someone took a photo from a cellphone showing them with alcoholic beverages.
The three women allegedly were wearing badges identifying them as jurors.
The photo was sent to Northumberland County Court Administrator Kevin O’Hearn, who brought it to the judge’s attention.
After Jones notified public defender John Broda and Assistant District Attorney Mike Finn of the incident, all parties agreed it would be in the best interest of the court and Markowitz to declare a mistrial. Both attorneys filed motions for a mistrial and Jones granted them.
If only two jurors were involved in the incident, the two alternates (one male and one female) could have replaced them on the jury. But because there were three jurors involved, a mistrial was declared.
Markowitz was charged by Shamokin Cpl. Bryan Primerano with possession with intent to deliver heroin, criminal conspiracy and possession of drug paraphernalia relating to an incident on June 19, 2017.
During the morning session of the trial, Finn called seven witnesses including Primerano, Shamokin Cpl. Jarrod Scandle, Shamokin Patrolman Matthew Dunn, Amber Lee Dietz and her husband, Jason Dietz, Jayce Marge and forensic scientist Gabriel Llinas, of the Pennsylvania State Police.
Later in the afternoon after the mistrial was declared, Markowitz decided to plead guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia in exchange for the withdrawal of the other offenses, under a plea agreement with the district attorney’s office.
Jones then sentenced Markowitz to the standard range of 3 to 12 months in county prison and ordered him to pay a $200 fine plus costs.
Markowitz remains in Northumberland County Jail on additional charges.