DAs hope Penn State fines fund child advocacy centers

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The Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Association wants some of $60 million fine levied on Penn State by the NCAA to go toward funding and opening child advocacy centers.

Several members of the PDAA, as well as child advocates, announced Wednesday that the association has sent letters to Penn State and the NCAA advocating part of the endowment help fund child advocacy centers across the state.

Advocates said of 67 counties in Pennsylvania, only 20 currently have child advocacy centers. They are hoping, in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky tragedy, that a positive change will be brought about.

Victim advocate Jennifer Storm said the money would be very beneficial at a time when cuts are forcing centers to scale back and even shut down.

“Children in the commonwealth have been significantly harmed,” Storm said. “The only way to help them is to allocate more resources. If we don’t do that, more children will be harmed.”

Shawn Wagner, Adams County District Attorney and PDAA President, said supporting child advocacy centers is the ideal use of endowment funds.

“Children advocacy centers most effectively fulfill the NCAA’s endowment directives and will be the best use of their funds,” Wagner said.

Child advocacy centers help victims get resources, such as counseling and medical help, as well as help investigators bring their abusers to justice.

“Children’s advocacy centers and our Children’s Resource here in Dauphin County are at the forefront of new and effective ways of helping children navigate their way through the criminal justice system,” Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico said.

A timeframe of when endowment funds will be distributed has not been announced. Officials believe that Penn State and NCAA will make a joint decision as to who will get the money.

Other non-profits have also expressed interest in receiving the endowment funds.

The Pennsylvania Children and Youth Solicitors Association has been developing plans to build a child protection training center since before the Sandusky tragedy. The structure would house courtrooms, a mock house, and would give professionals a place to get hands-on training.

Spokesman Jason Kutulakis said such a facility would help professionals learn how to put the needs of victims first. He estimated the costs of building the facility around $6 million, and said it would likely be built in Dauphin County so it would be accessible to professionals across the state.

Jeannie Flitner – ABC27

Featured in 717 from the publisher of Harrisburg Magazine

Jason Kutulakis drew a circle with eyes and a mouth and asked the little boy what was missing in this face.

Grown-ups know there’s only one answer. It’s the nose, of course.

“The ears,” said the boy.

Just a reminder, Kutulakis knows now that kids see the world without adult encumbrances.

Kutulakis was talking to the boy as part of his training for Child First Pennsylvania, the methodical child-abuse response system now being installed in counties statewide. As a founder and officer of the Pennsylvania Children and Youth Solicitors Association, Kutulakis helped bring Child First to Pennsylvania, starting in 2009.

With years of experience in juvenile justice and child-abuse cases, the Carlisle attorney and senior partner of Abom & Kutulakis was appointed to the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection, the task force created in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky alleged child sex abuse scandal.


How does Child First Pennsylvania work?

It trains first responders of suspected child abuse – law enforcement, prosecutors, child abuse caseworkers, solicitors and forensic interviewers. It brings those professional groups together in multidisciplinary teams. It trains them how to talk to kids. We train the forensic interviewer how to interview. And we train how to corroborate a kid’s statement so the case doesn’t go to court just based on that statement. We put the kid first throughout the process. We started all this before the Sandusky fiasco. We’ve trained 19 counties and about 120 professionals so far.

Does that mean that Pennsylvania had started moving in some good directions before the Sandusky case?

No. I think they were going in a very bad direction. Under the previous administration, a lot of things have morphed into not putting the child first. It’s become more family welfare, instead of child welfare. There’s nothing wrong with incorporating family into the process, but when you’re dealing with children, you absolutely have to put them on the pedestal, the Corbett administration and the current Department of Public Welfare secretary, the priority is putting kids first, making sure the counties are prepared to do very good, concrete investigations.


Was that part of the problem, that things fell through the cracks time after time?

We know so little about the total picture, but based upon what I’ve seen, a lot of things went wrong. But out of horrible tings, good things can come. Unfortunately there are kids that have been victimized, but there are many people that have not forgotten those victims. It gets us to Sen. Kim Ward and House Speaker Sam Smith and the governor putting together this task force. They are all very worried about what happened and trying to figure out how to prevent this and ensure there’s confidence in the system. Every individual in the system, and I’ve met them all across the state, is there because they want to be. It’s tough work and doesn’t pay much. There’s no doubt they’re trying to do the best they can, but the system has things we can fix.


Such as what?

The Child Protective Service Law as been the target of the Band-Aid approach for a long time, with piecemeal changes. For 30 years, it’s been essentially the same animal. It needs to be updated. IT has become reactionary instead of proactive. We Focus on kids that have been victimized more than addressing things in the front end and talking about how to identify kids at risk. How do you pout in services to prevent these things? Who is a mandated reporter? What are the consequences for failure to report? That was a big problem in the Sandusky case.


How do you write all that into law?

Lots of states have done it. There are a lot of things we can do. Redefining child abuse. Redefining perpetrator. Keeping statistics in a better way. Here’s one easy fix. We define a perpetrator. Keeping statistics in a better way. Here’s one easy fix. We define a perpetrator of child abuse as someone who has a relationship with a kid. So, if I see a 5-year-old on the street and get a crazy urge to punch him in the head, that’s clearly a criminal act. Horrible to do – that’s not child abuse. Because I’m not a member of the household, I’m not a teacher and I’m not in a caregiving role, it’s not child abuse. That doesn’t mean it won’t be prosecuted, but the ideal situation would be to ensure that services are in place for the child and the parent to deal with the situation. That’s an extreme example, but the ones that are common are somebody who’s involved with the family but not a caregiver. There are cases – I could make your head spin around like Beetlejuice. Mom’s paramour sexually assaults the child. A grandmother pimps out the granddaughter for crack. She’s not in a caregiving role, so it may not be child abuse.


There’s been so much focus on child sexual abuse. Should we focus just as much on physical and emotional abuse?

This is one of the things the task force is looking at. Do we need to redefine child abuse? From the task force perspective, everything’s on the table. From my perspective, no abuse in more or less significant whenever you’re abusing the most precious resource we have. We have to worry about all versions and flavors and varieties of abuse. Sexual abuse is the most offensive to the general public. Prosecuting child abuse – especially sexual abuse – the prosecutor has a very hard role because most people do not want to admit the human beings can do this to kids.

What changes have you seen since news broke about the Sandusky case?
There’s a ton of proposed legislation. Thank goodness the task force process put the brakes on that. Knee-jerk reactions are not good. There are a lot of very good proposed bills out there, and we want to make sure they all come together in a cohesive way.


What has kept you involved in this issue over the years?

This is an opportunity to give back. WE all believe that kids have to be our priority, and I’ve internalized that, so they become the pillars of our community that they’re supposed to be. If we can’t helo the most innocent, I’m not sure what that says about our society.


How can the task force impact Pennsylvania’s future?

There’s an opportunity with the Sandusky care, if we’re brave about it, to become the leader instead of the follower. We rank last in the states on admissibility of certain evidence in child-abuse cases. We’re not a leader in child abuse right now. The governor and Speaker Smith and Sen. Ward want to make Pennsylvania not only address what wrongs, if any, have occurred, but also make Pennsylvania proactive in protection of children and in child-abuse cases. That’s a monumental process.


How is the task force working together so far?

Great. Wonderful people from across the state. Dr.Cindy Christian from Philadelphia and Dr. Rachel Berger from Pittsburgh are wonderful pediatricians. There’s a great prosecutor from Blair County. There are some good things that will absolutely come out of this – I’m convinced.

By Alan Wycheck – 717 Magazine.

Penn State considers moves involving Dickinson School of Law

Some proposed changes at Penn State’s law school are drawing scrutiny, and concerns from some who worry it could weaken the Carlisle campus.
An internal memo obtained by The Patriot-News outlines at least one measure that would do away with the Dickinson School of Law’s two-campus operation. Penn State received a $25 million state grant on the condition it maintain two fully accredited campuses through June 2025.

Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law operates campuses in Carlisle and State College. An internal memo obtained by The Patriot-News outlines at least one measure that would make changes at the Dickinson School of Law’s Carlisle campus.

Critics fear it would lead to a weaker program, and worry that it’s leading to steps that could eventually result in the closure of the Carlisle campus.

Professors who voted on the proposals have been told not to publicly discuss them. And an advisory board, charged with ensuring Penn State meets terms of an agreement to maintain two law campuses, won’t comment.

Law school Dean Philip McConnaughay insists that there are no plans to close the Carlisle campus. He asserts the plans would in fact lead to a stronger program in Carlisle.

The two-campus arrangement was approved in 2005 in drawn-out, heated negotiations after Penn State proposed moving the law school from Carlisle to State College. The university received a $25 million state grant on the condition it maintain two fully accredited campuses through June 2025.

In the memo, McConnaughay said that at least one money-saving proposal would require a waiver from the advisory board.

That option calls for eliminating the program for first-year students in Carlisle. Instead, those students would attend classes only in State College. The memo said the option “better serves the long-term interests of the law school.” Among advantages he cites is a potential boost in rankings because the two-campus operation would “finally… make sense to academic observers.”

Another option would require all students to spend one semester or longer in State College. Students now can elect to study at either campus. McConnaughay said in the memo that such a change would not require a contract waiver.

Penn State President Rod Erickson is aware of McConnaughay’s proposals, according to university spokeswoman Lisa Powers. Powers said the issue has not been discussed by trustees.

Without addressing specific proposals, McConnaughay on Tuesday said the changes would cut expenses and enhance the law school’s reputation as it, along with law schools across the nation, confronts a downturn in student applications. He contends the aim is to maintain and strengthen the law school. To portray changes as anything less than an enhancement would be false, he said.

But that’s not how some see it.

The call for an end to the two-campus solution rips a scab from still-healing law school alumni and officials who fought plans in 2003 to close the Carlisle facility.

Carlisle Mayor Bill “Doc” Kronenberg said he would be appalled if Penn State broke its two-campus agreement.

Borough Councilwoman Linda Cecconello took an active role in talks with university officials when the two-campus solution was reached.

“People around here thought this was settled. The feeling I get is that nobody really knows what will happen next,” Cecconello said.

McConnaughay was expected to ask the law school advisory board last week for a contract waiver to permit elimination of the first-year program in Carlisle. It wasn’t known if the board gave it. Members contacted for this story — Hubert X. Gilroy, H. Laddie Montague, U.S. Middle District Senior Judge Sylvia H. Rambo and state Supreme Court Judge J. Michael Eakin — refused to comment or did not return calls seeking comment.

Law school faculty also were mum.

Professors apparently were asked on July 18 to vote on options put forth by McConnaughay. All professors contacted for this story refused to comment. One said, on the condition of anonymity, that McConnaughay had instructed faculty to keep the information confidential.

“It’s outrageous that Penn State, after the mishandling of the Sandusky case, wants to go out on a limb and breach a contract,” said Jason Kutulakis, a law school alum and former member of law school board.

Some, such as Kutulakis, aren’t happy with what they see as a lack of open dialogue regarding the potenial for important changes at the law school. It raises serious doubts about the university’s sincerity in the wake of promises for transparency, Kutulakis said.

“It’s time for full disclosure and clarity on what’s really going on,” Kutulakis said.

He said he suspects Penn State seeks to use money saved in law school cuts toward a $60 million fine imposed by the NCAA and other costs associated with the Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Powers said that the university will use athletics reserve money and capital maintenance funds and, if needed, will borrow money through an internal bond issue to cover the NCAA fine.

If Penn State moves forward on changes that violate its two-campus agreement, it wasn’t clear what, if any, type of sanctions the school might face.

Steve Aichele, Gov. Tom Corbett’s chief of staff, did not respond to a phone message Tuesday. Questions e-mailed Tuesday morning to the governor’s communications office were not answered.

The state grant is administered by the Cumberland County Redevelopment Authority. Authority Executive Director Ben Laudermilch said the university recently requested the last large draw of $2.5 million, leaving $625,000 in the account. That money will remain under county control until an audit of the project is completed next year, Laudermilch said.


Governor Corbett deserves credit for his handling of the Sandusky case

For more than 15 years, I have dedicated a portion of my professional career to children’s rights and the fight to protect children from abuse. Ten of those years, I spent representing Dauphin County Children & Youth, where I litigated more than 450 child abuse appeals before the Department of Public Welfare.

In this quasi-prosecutorial role, I fought to ensure that those who were identified as perpetrators of child abuse remained on the statewide ChildLine database.

Prosecuting child abuse-related crimes is extraordinarily difficult, often more so than even homicide cases. Most individuals understand the concept of one person killing another — albeit justified or not. To the contrary, it is our society’s human nature to want to disbelieve that one human being can sexually abuse the most innocent members of our community, our children.

Prosecutors must first convince the jury that adults can and do sexually abuse children. Then they must prove to the jury that the individual before them did those heinous acts.

As the Sandusky trial unfolded, I heard many differing opinions on what the verdict might be. There were many who said “Where is the proof that the child was sexually abused by Sandusky?” These statements exemplify the difficulties facing prosecutors in trying these cases and victims have in telling their stories. Rarely is there physical evidence to corroborate the sexual assault of a child.

The “CSI” effect is a factor as the public expects videotapes of the incident to appear, DNA to be left behind or injuries to be caused upon the child victim. This simply is not the real world.

The statements that have been made about Gov. Corbett’s handling of the Sandusky investigation while he was attorney general created unfair confusion about how to best pursue a child abuser who operated behind the veil of charity and prestige for many years.

Two of the Sandusky victims were brought to the attention of law enforcement and child protective agencies. In Centre County, in 1998, the district attorney opted against prosecution. A decade later, CYS officials in Clinton County were notified of complaints by the boy known as Victim No. 8.

But it was only after an anonymous referral in 2009 that the attorney general’s office, under Corbett, did something unique. It assumed jurisdiction in the matter of Sandusky even after county prosecutors passed on the case. Were it not for this rare decision, Sandusky would not have faced justice.

There were significant impediments to the attorney general’s investigation that had to be overcome before formal charges could be filed against Sandusky:

-The mere fact that other prosecutors had information and chose not to charge.
-Element of time of more than a decade passing since the first report.
-Investigating a revered defensive football coach who many contend built
“Linebacker U.”
-Potentially placing a never-ending scar on the face of an outstanding state university and its larger-than-life coach.

Had then-Attorney General Corbett decided not to bring charges, many would have concluded that he was somehow protecting Penn State. On the other hand, should charges have been warranted, as they obviously were, the collateral consequences for one of the nation’s most well-known universities and its winningest coach would undoubtedly bring swift consequences and criticisms.

The trail was cold on some of the cases. One of the victims, seen in a Penn State shower with Sandusky, could not even be located.

The major problem was taking on a larger-than-life football hero who had further enlarged his stature by running a charity for troubled boys. Sandusky enjoyed the aura of Penn State and its legendary coach. Building that sort of case requires time and a wealth of evidence.

While there is rarely physical evidence of child sexual abuse, there are many ways to strengthen a prosecution through corroboration of the child’s story as to where the incident(s) occurred or, as with the Sandusky case, statements of multiple child victims. It is imperative that criminal charges are not lodged prematurely as this might jeopardize the chances for conviction.

The plain fact is that the Sandusky investigation took so long because it was so thorough and, because it was so thorough, Sandusky was convicted of 45 charges and his victims were finally given some measure of closure.

With the investigation continuing, investigators are now likely to find more victims. With Sandusky’s guilt confirmed and his veneer as a surrogate dad to troubled boys stripped away, those who struggled with the confusion and self-loathing that comes with sexual victimhood will no longer see his stature as standing between them and a willingness to tell the truth.

That doesn’t happen overnight.

Without Corbett’s willingness to do the right thing the right way, it wouldn’t have happened at all.

By Jason Kutulakis

Will Sandusky testify at sex abuse trial?

The defense is set to take their turn at the child sexual abuse trial of Jerry Sandusky, but at least one question remains: will Sandusky himself testify?

A wooden chair enclosed in a small box at the Centre County courthouse may hold the weight of the entire trial.

So far, the only time the public has heard Sandusky speak was during an interview with Bob Costas on NBC’s Rock Center. When Costas asked Sandusky if he is completely innocent and falsely accused in every aspect, Sandusky responded, “Well, I could say that I have done some of those things.”

It was an interview with straightforward questions. In turn, Sandusky gave answers with long pauses, which many described as awkward.

Sandusky gave a one-on-one interview with the Washington Post. Then, on a chilly morning outside the Centre County courthouse after a pre-trial hearing, the former Penn State defensive coordinator gave a football analogy:

“We’re going to stay the course and fight for four quarters,” he said.

During opening statements last week, defense attorney Joe Amendola told jurors they would hear Sandusky in his own words. One could assume that meant he would testify when given the opportunity.

Carlisle defense attorney Jay Abom told abc27 News that Sandusky’s testimony is the only defense strategy, especially after the jury heard four days of emotional testimony from accusers.

“In my opinion, his only chance of winning will be for him to personally convince the jury he did not do it,” Abom said.

Dauphin County Assistant District Attorney Fran Chardo calls it a risky move. He said having a defendant vulnerable on the stand is a prosecutor’s dream.

“That’s something every prosecutor wants, to actually confront the defendant,” Chardo said. “I’m sure in this case, Joe McGettigan is looking forward to the cross-examination.”

Abom agreed that is a possibility, but in a “he said, she said” case, he said hearing from the accused and supporters is the best defense strategy.

“I would expect the defense to put forth evidence of Jerry Sandusky’s good deeds, good character, people who know him in the community to say nice things about him,” Abom said, “and then add his own testimony with that and it may be enough to create doubt so that the jury could find him not guilty.”

Abom said it is customary for defense teams to file motions for acquittal on some or all of the charges. He expects Amendola will do so next week.

By Dave Marcheskie – ABC27

ChildFirst Pennsylvania training held at Messiah College

The campus of Messiah College is quiet with students on spring break, but inside Boyer Hall it’s a different story.

This week professionals are being trained as part of the ChildFirst Pennsylvania program. The program changes how police officers and other first responders handle cases of suspected child abuse.

Jason Kutulakis, of Abom and Kutulakis Law Firm in Carlisle, is one of many professionals volunteering his time to the training program. He says ChildFirst makes children the priority in cases of suspected abuse, rather than the investigation.

“Many think we need to make sure we get a statement, we need a good prosecution, but we reverse that a little bit, we make the child the priority and we teach our forensic interviewers how to obtain information from the child,” he said.

The program has been in the works for several years. It’s working to create better understanding of how children relay information, and what types of questions help trigger better responses.

“We as adults think we all communicate the same way,” Kutulakis said. “Children don’t operate the same way.”

By developing this protocol, ChildFirst will prevent victims from having to be interviewed several times.

By Jeannie Flitner – ABC27

York man cited 14th time for driving with suspended license

Driving under a suspended license in Pennsylvania comes with tough consequences. Drivers can be fined and even thrown in jail. But 14 violations is the number it took for a York man to become what’s known as a “habitual offender.”

Harry Morales, 54, was pulled over Saturday when he was seen swerving while behind the wheel, according to police. When a state trooper ran his record, he found it was the 14th time Morales was caught driving under a suspended license.

Online court records also indicate Morales has pleaded guilty to seven DUI’s since 1988.

It wasn’t until last year that he pleaded to being a habitual offender, which may seem like an obvious title given his record, but in the eyes of the law it’s not that simple.

Attorney John Abom, who specializes in traffic cases, said a Pennsylvania driver must make three of the same infractions within a 5-year period in order to be deemed “habitual.”

“Although driving under suspension doesn’t always go to whether a person is a habitual offender or not, if you repeatedly commit the infractions you face increasing larger jail sentences,” Abom said.

It’s unclear if or how much jail time Morales could face if convicted. Court documents indicate he was not under the influence during his most recent offense.

By Alexandria Hoff – ABC27

Susquehanna Township School District recently paid $600K to settle student’s sexual assault claim

In the wake of a federal magistrate’s opinion that the Susquehanna Twp. School District acted with “deliberate indifference” to a student’s claim that she was sexually assaulted by a teacher, the district recently paid $600,000 to settle the case.

Additionally, the district has agreed to conduct annual sexual harassment training for all teachers and students as part of the settlement with the student, who claimed former drivers education teacher James D. Frank forced her to perform a sex act in 2006.

A Dauphin County court acquitted Frank of assault in August 2007. Frank cannot recover his teaching license since surrendering it in 2008, days before a pending revocation hearing at the Pennsylvania Department of Education. His attorney said at the time that Frank gave up the fight for health reasons.

Under the settlement, provided to The Patriot-News following a right-to-know request, Frank and retired Susquehanna Twp. High School Principal Kermit Leitner must pay $500 to a child-abuse-prevention or animal-protection charity. The district’s insurer will cover the $600,000 payment.

In her suit, Frank’s accuser claimed that her security and privacy had been violated, and the district maintained a “hostile educational environment” and retaliated against her for reporting sexual harassment. The harassment included Leitner’s letter to district employees soliciting funds for Frank’s defense, and students wearing T-shirts supporting Frank, she claimed.

The student, who was 16 at the time, claimed in the lawsuit that the hostility she encountered forced her to leave school for homebound instruction. The student, who is 22 now, received her diploma from Susquehanna Twp. High School and is now in college, said her attorney, Jason Kutulakis.

“This case is so similar to Penn State, it’s a little scary,” Kutulakis said, referring to the ongoing Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse investigation.

Sandusky was charged in November with sexually abusing several boys over more than a decade, and two Penn State officials were charged with lying to an investigating grand jury about an incident that was reported on campus in 2002. Amid criticism that school officials did not respond appropriately, the university’s board fired former President Graham Spanier and legendary head football coach Joe Paterno.

Frank did not return calls for comment. District solicitor P. Daniel Altland called the settlement “a compromise” and wouldn’t comment on the district’s performance as described by the judge.

“It’s not really an admission or acknowledgment whether it’s indifference, assault, or whatever,” Altland said.

The settlement was reached in December, ending the case, which had been filed in U.S. Middle District Court in 2009. The district, Frank and his wife, and other school officials were parties in the lawsuit.

In July, U.S. Magistrate Judge Mildred E. Methvin rejected the defendants’ motions to dismiss the lawsuit, finding merit in the accuser’s claims that she endured “quid pro quo sexual harassment,” she reported her alleged assault to proper authorities, and the district responded with “deliberate indifference.”

District officials had warned Frank about violating a policy forbidding behind-the-wheel, or BTW, driving lessons for one student at a time, the court found. And in the 1999-2000 school year, Frank had to apologize after he asked to see a female student’s nipple ring. The district took a “lackadaisical approach” to correcting Frank’s conduct, Methvin wrote.

“Had a formal reprimand or correction been given, or had school authorities followed-up to ensure compliance with the BTW policy, such behavior may have stopped and plaintiff’s assault arguably could not have occurred,” Methvin’s order read.

Frank’s accuser “will tell you that she was assaulted twice – once sexually, and the second time, the way it was handled, and it was equally as damaging,” said Kutulakis, of Abom & Kutulakis, Carlisle. “Kids should go to school, and that should be a safe haven for them.”

Parents should also know that “there are skilled people in place” to properly handle reports of wrongdoing, said Kutulakis, who earlier this month was appointed by the state House to Pennsylvania’s Task Force on Child Protection.

Susquehanna Twp. School District Superintendent Susan M. Kegerise said she couldn’t say if the settlement amounts to an admission of guilt because she didn’t work there when the alleged assault and harassment were reported.

In response to the settlement, the district is planning programs this year to educate younger students on bullying, and older students and staff on sexual harassment, Kegerise said. For future years, the district will build a system that ensures consistent responses district-wide to sexual harassment, she said.

“It is an ongoing issue at all districts, keeping aware and keeping the dialog open,” she said. “It’s not an easy issue to tackle. What can we do to improve that as a district, as a staff? That’s what we’re going to work on.”

Still, the parties differ on some next steps. Kutulakis praised Kegerise for improving sexual harassment policies and said that federal law requires appointment of a Title IX coordinator – a “point person” known throughout the district — to administer sexual harassment cases, which fall under the federal law banning gender discrimination in schools.

Kegerise said the district doesn’t “have an official Title IX coordinator. I don’t know any district that does.” All district guidance counselors are trained in dealing with child abuse claims, and all faculty members are updated every year on laws mandating reporting of suspected child abuse, she said.

The district’s existing harassment policy will be reviewed as part of ongoing policy upgrades, “to glean what could have been done differently” Kegerise said.

“You always learn from mistakes,” she said.

School Board President Jesse Rawls, Sr., said the district’s insurer determined the settlement payout, and the board hasn’t yet discussed policy changes or sexual harassment training.

The payout has not affected the district’s insurance premiums “right now,” and any future impact can’t be predicted, Kegerise said. The district’s policy covering the settlement was through the Pennsylvania School Boards Association Insurance Trust and cost $19,664, said Business Manager Michael Frentz. The district’s current policy, under a different insurer, expires June 30, he said.

M. Diane McCormick, The Patriot-News

Members named to state task force to prevent child abuse

A state task force created to prevent child abuse has now been filled with members. Governor Corbett, along with Senate and House leaders, made appointments to the Task Force on Child Protection.

“This task force has a tremendously important job,” Corbett said. “It will provide input to help us strengthen state laws and ensure every Pennsylvania child receives the protection from harm they deserve.”

The four members appointed by the governor are Hon. David W. Heckler, Bucks County District Attorney; William Strickland, president and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation; Dr. Cindy W. Christian, M.D., director of Safe Place: The Center for Child Protection and Health, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; and Delilah Rumburg, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

“There is a real need to review how we approach, define, investigate and respond to the issue of child abuse overall,” Speaker of the House, Rep. Sam Smith (R-Jefferson County).

Members appointed by the House include Jason Kutalakis, senior partner, Abom & Kutalakis LLP, Carlisle; Jackie Bernard, Chief Deputy District Attorney, Blair County; and Hon. Arthur Grim, Senior Judge, Court of Common Pleas of Berks County.

The Senate’s members are Dr. Rachel Berger, member of Child Protection Team at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh; Garrison Ipock Jr., executive director, The Glen Mills Schools, Glen Mills; and Carol Hobbs-Picciotto, MHS, Intake Social Worker, City of Philadelphia.


Neighbor to spend life in prison for killing 88-year-old Cumberland County woman

In a move that may have allowed him to avoid the death penalty, Colton M. Hardy this morning pleaded no contest to first-degree murder charges in the 2009 beating death of Ethel Weaver, his 88-year-old neighbor in Dickinson Township.

Cumberland County President Judge Kevin A. Hess immediately sentenced Hardy, 21, to life in prison.

Under his plea deal, outlined by Senior Assistant District Attorney Christylee Peck, Hardy also must pay more than $10,000 in restitution to Weaver’s family to cover funeral costs and the clean-up of the murder scene in Weaver’s Torway Road home.

Hardy was to be tried in the case on Monday. The plea deal was reached Thursday.

Peck said authorities were prepared to prove that Hardy broke into Weaver’s home, watched her as she slept and fatally beat her when she awoke. He then stole her car and drove for hours before returning and parking it near his home.

Hardy told several state troopers he had committed the murder and led officers to key pieces of evidence, including a bloody glove, Peck said.

Hardy gave a tearful apology after Hess accepted his plea. “It wasn’t right. I can’t take it back. If I could, I would,” he said.

His lawyer, John Abom, said the defense team would have presented evidence that Hardy was abused as a child, a factor that might have contributed to the murder.

Tawyna Wagner, Weaver’s granddaughter, told Hess how the murder has upended her life and that of Weaver’s other relatives. She recalled Weaver as a kind, compassionate woman who would never turn away someone in need.

“She was the last person on Earth who deserved this,” Wagner said.

MATT MILLER, The Patriot-News