Sunday, July 13, 2014





Superior Court orders new trial for Luzerne County man

Joseph Derhammer is accused of failing to comply with registration requirements under Megan’s Law


January 10. 2014 11:37PM

By - elewis@civitasmedia.com






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The state Superior Court said Joseph Derhammer is entitled to a new trial.


Derhammer, 43, of Wilkes-Barre, was convicted in a non-jury Luzerne County trial in March 2011 of failing to comply with registration requirements under the state’s Megan’s Law.


The appellate court ordered a new trial because Derhammer was not read his rights before the bench trial commenced before then Judge Lewis Wetzel.


Judges are mandated to perform a colloquy with each defendant who pleads guilty or elects a bench trial rather than a jury. A colloquy is a formal discussion that is recorded in which the judge ascertain the defendant’s understanding of the proceedings.


In Derhammer’s case, the colloquy was not conducted, the Superior Court noted in its opinion issued this week.


County Judge David W. Lupas last March reinstated Derhammer’s right to appeal when he was unable to locate the colloquy. Prosecutors also agreed that Derhammer should have a new trial, court records say.


Wilkes-Barre police accused Derhammer of failing to register an address with state police after he was “thrown out” of a house on Chester Street, Wilkes-Barre, on April 1, 2009, according to arrest records.


The Chester Street house was severely damaged by a fire that claimed the lives of Derhammer’s former girlfriend, Nancy Kostelnick, 48, and her daughter, Carolyn “CJ” Kostelnick, 23, on April 13, less than two weeks after Nancy Kostelnick ended her relationship with Derhammer.


Police charged Derhammer with intentionally setting the fire. His trial on two counts of criminal homicide and arson-related offenses is delayed due to a separate appeal.


Derhammer moved to a place on Park Avenue, Wilkes-Barre, but failed to register the address within 48 hours as required for a lifetime registered sexual offender, court records say.


State police Megan’s Law website says Derhammer was convicted in 1995 of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.


After he was convicted by Wetzel, he was sentenced to 40 to 80 months in state prison.




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