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Court briefs

December 19. 2013 12:08AM

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WILKES-BARRE — A federal judge has ordered a Philadelphia psychiatrist to examine former state Sen. Raphael Musto prior to a Jan. 6 competency hearing.

The octogenarian Musto faces corruption charges after a grand jury in November 2011 charged him with accepting $25,000 from a construction contractor who sought his continued support for various projects.

Susan Rushing, of the Penn Medicine Forensic Psychiatry Services Program, is to examine the ex-lawmaker to evaluate his competence to stand trial, according to an order signed Tuesday by U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo.

Musto’s attorneys filed a motion last month seeking to continue the trial indefinitely, claiming his physical health is deteriorating.

WILKES-BARRE — An April 28 trial date has been set in the case of a man accused in the death of a McAdoo woman on Interstate 81 two years ago.

Onix Gorbea-Lespier, 52, of Cumberland County, is charged with homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, aggravated assault by vehicle, two counts of DUI and careless driving in a July 3, 2011, crash along Interstate 81 that killed 18-year-old Kayla Bahrey, of McAdoo.

His trial has been on hold pending a battle over whether a second blood-alcohol test performed on Gorbea-Lespier could be admitted as evidence.

Luzerne County Court Judge Lesa S. Gelb in 2012 ruled that the test could not be admitted because state troopers did not provide Gorbea-Lespier a second warning that he faced license suspension for refusing the test.

Prosecutors appealed the ruling, with Assistant District Attorney James McMonagle saying it “terminates or substantially handicaps” the case’s prosecution.

State Superior Court in April issued an opinion reinstating the results, stating that a second warning was not required.

State Supreme Court last month denied an appeal of the Superior Court order.

State police allege Gorbea-Lespier had an alcohol level of 0.084 percent after he struck Bahrey along the shoulder near Exit 141, Hazleton South Beltway, where she had been helping push a disabled vehicle. The state’s DUI threshold is 0.08 percent.

Gorbea-Lespier told police he was returning home after attending a picnic in Albrightsville and admitted to drinking at the picnic, according to court papers.

WILKES-BARRE — A Scranton man pleaded guilty in Luzerne County Court this week in connection with two gas station robberies, including a heist in which a clerk was ordered face down on the floor and her hands were handcuffed behind her back.

Nicholas Reed, 26, will be sentenced at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 28. His crimes were:

• On Dec. 27, 2012, Reed robbed a Sunoco gas station on Market Street in Kingston, brandishing a BB gun at the clerk and fleeing with cash and Newport cigarettes.

He pleaded guilty to one count of robbery and must make $170 restitution.

• On Dec. 2, 2012, Reed took part in a hold-up at the Nu Mart store on East State Street in Larksville. A store clerk told police she was removing a garbage bag when a man, identified as Reed, entered the store armed with a handgun. The clerk was ordered face down on the floor and her hands were handcuffed behind her back. Police said Reed took money from the register and demanded the clerk open a safe she was unable to open. The clerk said Reed stole her cellphone before he ran out. He then stole the phone and keys of a female customer in the parking lot.

Reed pleaded guilty to one count of robbery and one count of unlawful restraint. He and two co-defendants are to make $1,483 in restitution.

WILKES-BARRE — A Hazle Township man who was sentenced to spend up to 10 years in prison for abusing a child over the course of eight years says his sentence is “too harsh,” according to court documents.

Lanning Vagts, 48, pleaded guilty Feb. 14 before Luzerne County Judge Fred Pierantoni in response to allegations that he sexually abused a child on a regular basis for about eight years, until 2004, when the youth was 16.

Pierantoni on Nov. 26 sentenced Vagts to serve 18 to 120 months in state prison, with credit for 106 days already served.

According to paperwork filed Wednesday, Vagts maintains he should not have been found to be a sexually violent predator because he did not meet the criteria, including: there was only one victim, he was not physically violent or unusually cruel and he did not have a history of sex offenses.

The appeal, asking Pierantoni to reconsider the sentence, was filed nunc pro tunc — after the time expired — because Vagts was in lockdown at the county prison and unable to communicate with counsel, according to paperwork.

WILKES-BARRE — A Berwick man will serve three years’ probation for leading police on a high-speed chase April 4 in Salem Township.

Police said Jesse M. Laubach, 28, reached speeds of up to 80 mph in a 35 mph zone and crashed into some bushes during the pursuit, when township police tried to pull over the speeding vehicle. Officers said Laubach stopped once, put his hands up when approached by an officer with his gun drawn, but then suddenly drove off again. Only after a second stop — and striking a police cruiser — was Laubach apprehended.

According to an affidavit, Laubach said he first thought the pursuing vehicle belonged to the boyfriend of a girl he had just dropped off. When asked why he fled the officer following the first stop, Laubach told police he was “scared and tired.”

Laubach also will have to perform 50 hours of community service.

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