A man on Lycoming County probation is accused of raping his neighbor's 9-year-old daughter.
As horrific as it sounds, the role play and mock probation violation hearings before County Judge Dudley N. Anderson Friday served a perfect teaching tool for Lycoming College students taking a probation and parole class.
Nine of the students, who are taught by County Adult Probation Officer Rob Thompson, spent about two hours portraying either probation officers or defendants. County Public Defender Robin Buzas represented the alleged violators.
Lycoming College students in Rob Thompson’s probation and parole class watch as a mock case is presented by classmates in Judge Dudley N. Anderson’s courtroom at the Lycoming County Courthouse Friday.
The cases actually were ones before the court, Thompson said beforehand. Similar mock educational scenarios took place last year. It gave the judge a chance to explain how the law applies in each case and the students to role play, something they will be asked to do when they become professionals in a few short months.
Public defense attorney Robert Cronin played a man who allegedly sexually assaulted his neighbor's young daughter. County Adult Probation Officer Cory McAndrews recommended he be detained as a flight risk.
However, there was a catch. Buzas said her client had not had a hearing and the police had not presented any evidence of the charges existing without them actually being there in the court and filing them.
Cronin launched into a tirade about Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Tiger Woods able to mess with women and yelled, "I deserve rehab," to which Anderson replied, "We'll rehab you at the corner of Third and Hepburn," the site of the County Prison.
The judge ultimately ruled the matter kept at the preliminary hearing and remanded the defendant to prison, setting bail as $75,000 cash or property in addition to any bail set in any other matter.
Anderson then told the students that very often probation officers are not given the police charges but are promised they will be filed. Bail assures the person will appear and not flee, but it also protects the public safety.
Thomas said his students have been to drug treatment court, toured the county Pre-Release Center and sat in on actual parole violation hearings.
They are learning the roles of the probation office are to first protect the community and, secondly, to try to get offenders to become productive members of the community.
In another mock case, student Amanda DuBois of State College played a probation officer while probation officer Aaron Geiser was an intoxicated man on supervision for an original charge of cruelty to animals. He was accused of putting injured animals in cages in his yard and having whiskey bottles strewn about the property.
Although Geiser wasn't charged with a new cruelty to animals offense, Buzas argued the defendant told her the dogs wandered onto his property and he put them in cages. The defendant told the judge the neighbor threw the bottles in an attempt to frame him.
While DuBois argued that the dogs didn't get into the cages themselves, Buzas said it was hearsay without any police testimony or evidence.
"Buzas is right," Anderson said. "You need police officers or witnesses."
In other mock cases:
Sara Johns of the adult probation office played a probation office-supervised woman accused of drinking and being in possession an unregistered .233 Winchester rifle. Student Ian Eisenhart of the Philadelphia area was the probation officer.
Buzas argued she was unaware of the gun that belonged to her sickly grandfather, with whom she lives and cares for.
The gun was not functioning, but a test taken indicated she had been consuming alcohol.
"If I were drinking, it wouldn't be that low," she shouted, referring to her blood-alcohol content.
"How do you know the gun is hers," the judge asked.
Eisenhart essentially argued if the lease is in her name, the gun is there and she is in possession of it.
Buzas broke in: "The rifle was found in a shed. She never knew about it and can't be held responsible."
The judge then gave an analogy: "What if you are in a car and someone in the car has marijuana?" he asked. Would strip-searching everyone in the car be necessary?
"Believe it or not, the law hasn't gotten to that stage yet," Anderson said.
Eisenhart said the woman should be held to a higher standard because she was on probation.
The judge also said that DUI laws are precise and the penalties now increase, depending on the blood-alcohol content measurements rising.
If the content is 0.159 percent, it's one penalty, but if it is 0.60 percent, it is a higher penalty, Anderson said.
The preliminary alcohol screening of the woman shows she had consumed alcohol, and the court could assume her intoxication by the empty bottles in the house.
The woman claimed the alcohol level indicated was a result of her using mouthwash.
"That's mouthwash laced with a little tequila," Anderson said to much laughter.
Adult probation officer Karen Miller portrayed a pregnant woman on probation charged with DUI and furnishing alcohol to minors. Her daughter had slipped, fell and suffered a concussion.
Miller's probation officer, student Jamie Reed of Reading, asked that Miller be released on her on recognizance and that she attend West Branch Drug and Alcohol to get help. She was not considered a flight risk.
Just then, a man in the audience yelled, "That's my baby's momma. I need her on the street because I need her check."
Buzas said the pregnant woman would have negative consequences, such as swollen ankles, from being affixed to a bracelet monitoring her whereabouts.
The judge thought it would be sufficient if she checked in with probation and provide necessary testing.
The woman also, in the middle of the hearing, took a cell phone call from her daughter.
Anderson and others laughed a bit, but the judge was serious when he spoke about his belief that there are a wider variety of issues for females on probation than males.
Pregnancies, dealing with young children and other issues that are gender-oriented result in this happening, he explained, cautioning others not to label him sexist.
The younger women, in particular, who often are subject to abuses have been helped by probation officers such as Miller, who is leaving her position.
Student Tayshawn Presbry played a probation officer accusing Adam Lorson, of the adult probation office, who was portraying a man probation for possession with intent to deliver drugs of crossing over into New Jersey, where the man was picked up for driving recklessly, DUI and possession a small amount of marijuana.
Presbry recommended County Prison and that bail be set at $20,000. But Buzas said her client's uncle was dying. Anderson said had the man left a lengthier and more onpoint message with the probation officer about his intention that probably would have mitigated the bail issue.
But Anderson admitted it was a gray area.
"If he lies to me about calling in and leaving a message, I would take (Tayshawn's) recommendation and bail would be significantly higher," Anderson said.