Cell phone search requires a warrant, Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has issued a decision on cell phone searches that confirms that the devices may not be searched without a warrant. The Court found that the Fourth Amendment right of people “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures” includes the expectation that their cellphones will not be searched without a warrant.

The decision, which reverses a Pennsylvania Superior Court ruling, reaffirmed rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, which found that, while seizing a cell phone without a warrant is not a Fourth Amendment violation, searching the device is a violation.

Specifically, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court noted, powering on the cell phone without a warrant was “akin to opening the door to a home. It permitted police to obtain and review a host of information on the cell phone, including viewing its wallpaper, reviewing incoming text messages and calls, and accessing all of the data contained in the phone.”

The Court also stated that, “The act of navigating the menus of a cell phone to obtain the phone’s number is unquestionably a search that required a warrant.” Such evidence obtained through that warrantless search would be subject to suppression, the ruling stated.


Bail Approved in Centre County Case

Clinton County Senior Judge J. Michael Williamson approves bail in Centre County case.


CARLISLE, PA – It is with great sadness and a profound sense of loss that the law firm of Abom & Kutulakis LLC announces the death of its founding partner and senior attorney Jason P. Kutulakis. Jason died this morning at his home leaving behind his beloved wife, Joanne, and their beautiful daughter, Alexandra. The cause of death appears to have been a heart attack.

“The Carlisle legal community has lost an immensely talented and dedicated attorney,” Jay Abom, managing partner and co-founding partner of Abom & Kutulakis, said. “Jason was my partner, my friend and the best and most passionate legal advocate for the welfare of children this commonwealth has ever had. My prayers are with Joanne and Alex at this time of mourning. May we all find comfort in our memories of Jason and his legacy of achievement.”

Jason loved being a lawyer and his greatest passion was the protection of child-abuse victims. From 1999 to 2010 he served as the Solicitor for Dauphin County Children and Youth Services. In 2004, he formed the non-profit organization The Pennsylvania Children and Youth Solicitors’ Association. In 2006, The Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Children’s Rights Committee awarded Jason with The Child Advocate of the Year Award.

Jason’s vision helped to create ChildFirst PA making Pennsylvania the 17th state in the nation to offer a certified forensic interview training program for cases of child abuse. The ChildFirst PA program is specifically designed for investigative teams of law enforcement officers, social workers, prosecutors, child protective attorneys, and mandated reporters of abuse who must provide investigating professionals with essential information.

In January 2012, Jason was selected to serve on the Pennsylvania Governor’s Task Force on Child Protection. The 11 member Task Force was formed after the Jerry Sandusky-Penn State child sexual abuse scandal to review and make recommendations on how to overhaul the child abuse laws of Pennsylvania including the definition of child abuse, mandated reporter and perpetrator. On November 27, 2012, Jason participated in a public meeting where the Task Force’s Report was revealed. He served on the board of directors of Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance (PFSA) and his counsel was instrumental in helping PFSA secure a Department of Human Services’ statewide contract in 2016 to provide training to mandated reporters of child abuse in Pennsylvania.

As a founding partner of Abom & Kutulakis in 2001, Jason focused his practice on child advocacy, civil litigation, workers’ compensation, and business counseling.

Following his graduation from The Dickinson School of Law, Jason worked on the complex litigation involving Three Mile Island. In 1997, he joined the Dauphin County Public Defender’s Office where his primary responsibilities were in the Appellate and Juvenile Divisions. In 1999, Jason joined the law firm of Marshall, Smith and Haddick, P.C. That law firm focused its practice in the defense of medical malpractice, premises liability, commercial and general litigation and workers’ compensation matters. While working for Marshall, Smith & Haddick, P.C., Jason appeared before workers’ compensation judges in Williamsport, Chambersburg, Reading and Harrisburg. He also litigated premises and general liability matters in Dauphin and Cumberland County Courts of Common Pleas on behalf of major food retail stores.

Funeral arrangements are pending.


PA DHS awards PFSA multi-year deal to train professionals in Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse
Fulfills a key recommendation of post-Sandusky PA Task Force on Child Protection

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HARRISBURG, PA – Flanked by members of the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection, district attorneys, child advocates and medical professionals, Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance (PFSA) President and CEO Angela Liddle today applauded the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services’ (DHS) decision to award PFSA an up to five-year, $2.5 million competitively bid contract to provide face-to-face training in recognizing and reporting child abuse to mandated reporters across Pennsylvania.

“PFSA’s selection by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services is a testament to the soundness of our approach, the depth of our curriculum, and the professionalism of our child welfare trainers and staff,” said Liddle. “PFSA is the gold standard when it comes to the training of mandated reporters in recognizing and reporting child abuse in Pennsylvania. Through this contract, we will train thousands of additional mandated reporters.”

Mandated reporters are people who are required by law to report suspected child abuse. They generally are people who come into contact with children as a part of their employment, practice of their profession and, sometimes, as volunteers in child-serving programs. The Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) was amended in 2013 and in 2014, including significant changes to the list of people who are mandated to report suspected child abuse. They make more than 75% of the calls to ChildLine, the state’s 24-hour hotline to report child abuse – 800-932-0313.

PFSA has provided DHS-approved mandated reporter training curricula since 1995. PFSA’s face-to-face training, Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse, is one of only a few curricula approved by the Pennsylvania departments of Human Services, Education and State, is eligible for Act 48 credits, and meets the requirements for training under Acts 126 and 31.

Jason P. Kutulakis, a member of the PA Task Force on Child Protection and a founding partner of the law firm of Abom & Kutulakis LLC, said, “The Task Force on Child Protection, convened by the General Assembly and former Governor Tom Corbett after the Jerry Sandusky-PSU child sexual-abuse scandal, recommended that the state establish and support proven training programs for a wide range of mandated reporters. This contract fulfills that recommendation. I am confident that the professional trainers and staff of PFSA have the expertise and commitment to help us better protect Pennsylvania’s children.” Kutulakis also serves on the PFSA Board of Directors.

“Child abuse and neglect cases are heartbreaking. They are also preventable,” noted David Arnold, president of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and Lebanon County district attorney. “As a prosecutor, I’d much rather stop child abuse before it happens. Through this expanded training, more mandated reporters across the commonwealth will know exactly how to detect abuse and neglect and how to report it. Our goal should always be to intervene at the first sign of trouble so we can spare more children the physical and emotional scars of abuse.”

State Representative Julie Harhart (R-Lehigh and Northampton counties) sponsored HB 316 enacted by the General Assembly in April 2014. It provides the funding mechanism for child advocacy centers and MR training through an additional fee for copies of state Department of Health birth records. She commented, “I have been a long-time advocate of children’s issues and have fought hard to establish a reliable funding stream for child advocacy centers across the state. These centers are a critical asset to help children who have been abused by providing a place for them to go and get the help they need.
“A key element in addressing the issue of child abuse is to recognize the signs of abuse and to know the correct steps to take to help the child through this tragedy. The contract we celebrate today will do just that by enabling more state-mandated reporters to receive this vital training. I applaud the work of the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance and everyone who is working so hard to ensure the safety and well-being of our children and families.”

Strengthening Training of Medically Licensed Professionals:
One of the primary purposes of the CPSL is to encourage more complete reporting of child abuse. A key change made by lawmakers to the CPSL places a training requirement on those individuals applying for initial licensure or renewal of a health-related state license (Act 31 of 2014).

PFSA has partnered with Lori Frasier, M.D., division chief of child abuse pediatrics at the Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, to develop a clinical portion that augments its approved face-to-face training. PFSA will seek approval of the new clinical-training component from the departments of Education, Human Services and State.

“It’s very important for health professionals to recognize the more subtle signs of child abuse. These often occur in infants and young children who cannot speak yet,” Dr. Frasier said. “The purpose of clinical training is to bring physicians up to the level of recognizing early-stage child abuse and feel confident in their medical judgement that this has occurred.”

Research conducted by Franklin and Marshall College on behalf of PFSA in 2014 clearly shows that when mandated reporters are trained properly, they know how to recognize and report the signs of abuse. “In fact, our research demonstrated that those mandated reporters who are well trained are five times more likely to report suspected child abuse,” noted Liddle. “Mandated reporters often are the first line of defense for kids so their proper training is the key to early intervention in a potentially abusive situation involving children.”

ABOUT PFSA: Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance provides training on recognizing and reporting suspected child abuse and neglect to schools, early childhood education centers, law enforcement agencies, religious institutions, and social service agencies. PFSA is the Pennsylvania sponsor of The Front Porch Project®, a training initiative that educates community members so they can play a vital role in child protection. PFSA also works with more than 50 affiliate agencies across Pennsylvania to provide information, educational materials, and programs that teach and support good parenting practices. Visit www.pa-fsa.org to learn more about PFSA.

Nell Abom

Statement regarding the federal law suit of Kegerise v. Susquehanna Township School District, Carol Karol, Jesse Rawls, Sr. & Mark Sussman

“Over the last eighteen (18) months, Dr. Kegerise has been forced to endure a hostile work environment created by members of the Susquehanna Township School Board. While she has made her best efforts to work towards the bests interested of the students, faculty and staff of the District, Board members have sued her, falsely called her a criminal, and circumvented the law in demanding her resignation. On her behalf, we have unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate an amicable resolution with the District. Regretfully, Dr. Kegerise is left with no alternative but to seek relief from the Court. No additional comments will be made at this time.”

Wright will coach Boiling Springs wrestling this season

BOILING SPRINGS — South Middleton School Board put a hold on wrestling coach Rodney Wright but did not count him out of the upcoming season.

The board Monday voted unanimously to reinstate Wright as head coach of the Boiling Springs High School team, but made the effective date of his appointment Jan. 1, 2014.

This means Wright will miss the first six weeks of a sport that starts preseason training in mid-November and has a regular season that runs through the end of January. Postseason wrestling continues into mid-March.

A full-time drivers’ education teacher, Wright was suspended from the classroom for much of the first marking period but will return on Monday, Oct. 14.

Wright was charged on April 11 with possession of drug paraphernalia after a police search of his home revealed a small wooden box and a stainless steel smoking pipe, both with the odor of marijuana.

Defense attorney Jay Abom said Monday that while Wright is being considered for participation in the accelerated rehabilitative disposition program for first-time offenders, the Cumberland County District Attorney’s office has yet to make the motion for Wright to be accepted into the program.

Successful completion of conditions specified under the ARD would result in the dismissal of the paraphernalia charge and an expungement of Wright’s record, Abom said. “ARD does not involve any admission of guilt.”

Participation in the program is for a period of at least six months and could include such conditions as community service and drug and alcohol counseling, Abom said. “ARD is routine in a case such as this one.”

The board Monday approved a list of extra duty athletic positions for the winter season that included appointing Ryan Eby the interim head coach for wrestling for the first six weeks of the season. Eby will resume work as assistant varsity coach after Wright takes over as the head coach.

Prior to voting on the list, Board President Tom Merlie read a statement from Wright in which the coach apologized for the negative publicity his personal situation has brought toward the school district, the board, the administration, the parents, students, the wrestling program and team.

“This entire situation has added a great deal of stress to my family, my friends, the wrestlers and the parents for which I am greatly sorry,” Merlie quoted Wright. “Looking back on the situation, I wish I would have done a lot of things differently. I am looking forward to putting the situation behind us all and getting back to teaching and coaching.”

In a phone interview with The Sentinel prior to the meeting, Wright said he wished he could return to the head coach position at the beginning of the season, but added “that is not my decision.”

Wright was then asked about the discrepancy in the dates between when he is scheduled to return as a teacher and when he returns as head coach. “Why the delay is a good question,” Wright said. “I’d never really a got a clear sense.”

Hundreds of people flocked to the school board meeting in early September in a show of support to have Wright immediately reinstated as coach for the upcoming season. There were rumors circulating within the community that Wright’s name was being withheld from renewal on the roster of winter sports coaches.

The issue did not come up in school board meetings held later in September. Monday’s meeting was moved from the board room in the Iron Forge Educational Center to the high school auditorium in anticipation of a larger crowd.

Fewer people showed up Monday and no one in the audience said a word about Wright or his status as a coach during either of the two public comment periods.

Kim Hurley, Wright’s girlfriend, said that while supporters are disappointed the coach will miss the opening weeks of wrestling season, they were relieved that he would be back in January and was not dismissed for a full year.

Assistant coaches Eby and Trevor Byers will lead the program for the first six weeks and are familiar with the coaching style of Wright having worked with him for years, Hurley said.

“They are excellent coaches,” wrestling mom Lisa Vaughn said of Eby and Byers. “They will do a great job. They will be there to support the boys. That is going to mean a lot.” Vaughn said the absence of Wright in the opening weeks of the season could impact the Bubbler’s postseason prospects.

Wright will not be head coach during two tournaments that are very important to the Bubbler wrestling program — King of the Mountain and the Boiling Springs holiday tournament, Vaughn said. Both events draw college scouts.

There was concern among supporters over who the scouts would be able to call on the coaching staff to get the best information on the wrestling style of prospects. It was felt hearing it from head coach Wright would make a better impression.

“It’s apples and oranges,” Board President Merlie said when asked why Wright is being reinstated as a teacher in October, but would have to wait until early January to resume his duties as head coach.

“As a teacher, you have certain rights,” Merlie said. “Coaches are seasonal employees and have not rights to the job from one year to the next.”

The board Monday approved a memo of understanding involving a grievance that had been filed against the school district. Merlie would not elaborate on the contents of the memo except to say it involved the coaching roster for winter sports and that “it will allow us to move forward.”


Sandusky appeal denied

HARRISBURG — The State Superior Court today rejected an appeal by Jerry Sandusky, who was trying to get his sexual abuse convictions overturned. Last year, Sandusky was convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys and sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in prison. An attorney for Sandusky says he will now appeal to the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court but a local attorney says there’s only a slim chance the higher court will take on the appeal. “Here you have routine discretion of court,” Jason Kutulakis said. “I don’t see the Supreme Court taking this case at all.” He says that’s because Sandusky’s appeal does not include constitutional questions. The appeal by Sandusky focuses on the decision of the Commonwealth Court Judge who oversaw the case in Centre County. The Sandusky appeal contested his conviction on three main points: the prosecution made inappropriate statements about Sandusky not taking the stand, the judge didn’t properly instruct the jury, and there wasn’t enough time to prepare for the case. Two weeks after the Superior Court heard oral arguments for the appeal, it affirmed the actions of the lower court judge and affirmed the Sandusky’ convictions.