By BEN KLEIN
It was all hands on deck at the Warren County Courthouse for the preliminary hearings for 31 residents who were rounded up in a county wide drug bust last week.
Both district magistrates and at least 10 attorneys were present for a marathon day that involved plea deals, waivers, and testimony from confidential informants and members of the Warren Country Drug Task Force.
The first preliminary hearing of the day focused on the distribution of "bath salts" and was held for Michael T. Moll, 46, 206 Station Lane, North Warren, who was charged with two counts of possession with intent to deliver, two counts of possession of a controlled substance, two counts of criminal use of a communications facility and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
The evidence presented against Moll by Warren County District Attorny Ross McKiernan and County Sheriff Ken Klakamp was sufficient for District Magistrate Laura Bauer to move Moll's to the next level of court.
In his testimony, Klakamp described the "controlled buy" conducted with a confidential informant who was given $150 to purchase "bath salts" from Moll's residence that resulted in a search warrant and the discovery of drug paraphernalia, suspected drugs and packaging materials. Information provided to the Warren County Drug Task Force indicated there were allegedly children present in the home on at least two occassions in which the confidential informant entered the residence, which led McKiernan to amend the charges and include endagnering the welfare of a child, a third-degree felony.
Court appointed attorney Robert Greene questioned the prosecution's evidence linking Moll to the charges against him and described Klakamp's testimony as heresay. "Heresay in of itself cannot be bound over," Greene said. "I ask this case be thrown out."
McKiernan said the Commonwealth was not required to reveal the confidential informant and said the controlled substance in question is "direct evidence."
District Magistrate Laura Bauer said the "court wants to see something. We have nothing that's not heresay."
In response, McKiernan called Youngsville Borough Police Officer, Warren County Drug Task Force member Charlie Anderson and task force member Dee Filla to the stand, and both provided testimony to their participation and surveillance of the confidential informant's alleged purchse of "bath salts" from Moll residence at 206 Station Lane last year.
In his closing argument, Greene again asked the charges be dismissed and said the Commonwealth should "have to be able to show something to keep this man incarerated" and described the case as "very loose at best." "It is possible the defendant commited these crimes," Bauer said and Moll's case was bound to the next level.
The preliminary hearing of Travis L. McIntyre, 31, 37 Fifth St., Youngsville, focused on the distribution of prescription medicaitons in Youngsville. McIntyre was represented by court-appointed attorney Allen Kahn and was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Feronti. Feronti called a confidential informant to the stand who provided detailed accounts of multiple sales of Sebutex allegedly purchased from McIntyre. Youngsville Borough Police Chief Todd Mineweaser detailed the process of the confidential informant. In "all three buys there was surveillance?" she asked."Yes," Mineweaser said. McIntyre was held for court on all charges.
Charles Sunderlin, 28, 516 N. Main St., Youngsville, was charged with two counts of possesson with intent to deliver Oxycontin, and two counts of criminal use of a communication facility.
During the preliminary hearing, Feronti again called a confidential informant to the stand to provide testimony to the details of multiple purchases of the prescription medication in Youngsville Borough.
A combined preliminary hearing was held for Larry Johnson Jr., 49, 1 Frontier Dr., Youngsville, charged with with three counts of possession with intent to deliver cocaine, and conspiracy - possession with intent to deliver, and Cassandra Perrin, 24, 19 Carriage Dr. Youngsville, charged with three counts of possession with intent to deliver cocaine, and three counts criminal use of a communications facility.
A single confidential informant was questioned by Johnson's private attorney, Greene, and Perrin's public defender, James Parrocini.
The confidential informant provided testimony to multiple purchases of cocaine on Jan. 5, 6, 7. "I bought an eight ball each day," the informant said.
District Magistrate Glenn Carlson presided over the preliminary hearing of Janet E. Smith, 51, of 213 E. Main St., Youngsville, who was charged with four counts of possession with intent to deliver Methodone pills, and two counts of criminal use of a communications facility.
Smith was represented by court-appointed attorney Alyce Bush, and Barry Klenowski represented the Commonwealth.
During testimony, Klenwoski questioned a confidential informant who detailed the process leading up to, during, and after controlled buys that allegedly took place with Smith on multiple occasions.
"You were provided with Commonwealth funds?" Klenowski asked.
"Yea, $120," the informant said. "We went and bought eight more Methadone pills" on a second occasion nearly an hour later.
Carlson found there was sufficient evidence to bound Smith's case over.
Operation New Beginning was a county-wide drug raid led by the Warren County Drug Task Force and involved more than 40 local, state and federal agents and included almost 30 residences.
The drugs the suspects are accused of selling include cocaine, methamphetamines, herion, prescription medications, marijuana and bath salts.
Incident Commander Ken Klakamp, Warren County Detective and Sheriff directed the operation, and U.S. Special Agent William Mickle of the U.S. Forest Service developed the logistics and operation plan for the sweep.
Agents from the Warren County Sheriff's Office, Warren County Corrections Office, City of Warren Police, Conewango Township Police, Youngsville Borough Police, Pennsylvania State Police, Pennsylvania Attorney General's Bureau of Narcotics, U.S. Marshal Service and U.S. Forest Service participated in the operation.
An arraignment date of March 8 has been scheduled for waved and bound cases.