A Warren man accused of sexually abusing a two-month-old child had a motion for new standby counsel approved by Judge Gregory Hammond on Friday afternoon.
In opening remarks, Hammond said that the proceeding was originally scheduled to consider a change of venue motion filed by the defendant, Francis Notoro of Warren. Notoro subsequently withdrew that motion, then filed a motion to have Public Defender John Parroccini replaced as stand-by counsel by Public Defender Alan Conn.
Hammond approved the motion, but took the opportunity to caution Notoro about the pitfalls of self-representation, which Notoro has fought to do. He said Notoro was evaluated by a forensic psychologist, who ruled him competent to stand trial. The report also indicated that Notoro had the "requisite intelligence" to represent himself, according to Hammond.
Hammond told Notoro that Conn could be appointed to represent him instead of serving as stand-by counsel.
"Is that something you would request?" Hammond asked.
"No, sir," Notoro replied.
Hammond then explained that he granted Notoro leniency in the submission of pre-trial motions, but that the same leniency would not be extended when the case progressed to questioning potential jurors as well as questioning witnesses and objecting during trial. He set a deadline of next Friday, Feb. 1, for Notoro to submit any additional pre-trial motions.
"You are going to be responsible to follow all those rules," he cautioned Notoro.
When Hammond informed him of the deadline, Notoro responded by saying that he is no longer allowed to have paper and pen for which he has filed suit against the jail.
Notoro indicated that he intends to appeal a motion to suppress that was denied earlier this month regarding interviews he gave on July 16 and July 18 of last year to members of the City of Warren Police Department and Warren-based State Police. He explained that he wants to put forth evidence that the medication he was on at the time made him "not comprehensible to what was going on at the time."
Hammond denied a request for a polygraph test, explaining that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that the results are not admissible as evidence to a jury.
Hammond referred to the psychologist's report and explained that the evaluating psychologist was "quite concerned about the possibility of you (Notoro) becoming erratic...in the courtroom."
He reminded Notoro, "You, by your conduct, can waive the right to represent yourself" if his behavior "jeopardizes" a right to a fair trial.
Warren County District Attorney Ross McKiernan said that the "Commonwealth is prepared to go to trial." He then raised the issue of an order handed down at the suppression hearing that allowed Notoro to obtain a dental mold that could be compared to the bike marks found on the victim.
Parroccini said that he has been in contact with four local dentists about their ability to provide forensic testimony but has yet to hear a response.
Hammond reminded Notoro that jury selection is set for Feb. 11 with calendar call set for Monday, emphasizing that he will have to make a decision whether or not to ask for a continuance while waiting to hear about the dental mold.
Notoro said he wanted a speedy trial and told Hammond that he should "go for what you can, pretty much."
"You're going to get your trial, Mr. Notoro," Hammond responded.
Notoro then claimed that he was not given the pictures or interviews that the Commonwealth has procured as evidence. Hammond said to McKiernan that such documentation should be turned over to Notoro.
"We're ready to go," McKiernan said, explaining that the interviews were difficult to transcribe but that the day they were received a copy was given to Notoro."We're not hiding anything from him," he added.
Notoro returned to the possibility of a polygraph exam, and Hammond reminded him again that the results could not be given to a jury because of their reliability.
Notoro, currently housed in the Warren County Jail, faces charges including involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, indecent assault, simple assault and rape, among other counts.
The charges stem from a July 15, 2012 incident in which personnel at Warren General Hospital reported suspicious injuries to the body of an infant Notoro had brought to the hospital. Further examination of the injuries found bruising and abrasions consistent with bite marks on various body parts.