Will Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judge Fred Pierantoni be called to testify at a preliminary hearing in Dauphin County?
Pierantoni was advised in February during a closed-door court proceeding that he may be summoned to testify in the witness intimidation and theft case against Attorney Shelley Centini, private investigator James Sulima and double-homicide suspect Hugo Selenski.
State prosecutors in January charged Centini, 38, of Laflin; Sulima, 49, of Pittston; and Selenski, 40, with attempting to coerce at least five prosecution witnesses to change their stories in the double-homicide case in Luzerne County. A state grand jury returned a 13-page presentment against the trio recommending charges be filed.
Their preliminary hearing is scheduled today before District Judge David H. Judy in Royalton, Dauphin County.
Centini, who was Selenski’s lead defense counsel for two years, and Sulima were disqualified by Pierantoni on Feb. 10 from continuing to defend Selenski on the homicide charges. During a closed court proceeding the same day, Centini’s attorney, Al Flora, alerted Pierantoni that the judge may be called as a witness on Centini’s behalf at the hearing, according to a transcript of the Feb. 10 proceeding.
Pierantoni declined comment on Wednesday.
Flora and Lauren Bozart, a spokeswoman for the state Attorney General’s Office, said the prosecution could not disclose the names of witnesses who may testify.
If Pierantoni is called to the witness stand, it may relate to the theft charge against Centini, Sulima and Selenski, as the judge authorized payments to Centini and Sulima in 2012 and 2013.
The criminal complaint alleges Centini, Sulima and Selenski committed theft when they deceived Luzerne County in excess of $50,000 by creating and maintaining various false impressions.
Records obtained by The Times Leader in April 2013 show $90,869 had been paid to Centini since she was appointed to defend Selenski in January 2012. A right-to-know request to obtain payments to Centini from January 2012 to February was denied by the county solicitor’s office.
Pierantoni’s court schedule is open this morning. The first item listed on the judge’s schedule is a closed meeting with other county judges scheduled to begin at noon.
The grand jury presentment alleges Selenski wrote letters that Centini and Sulima delivered to at least five prosecution witnesses in the double homicide case. The letters were given to the witnesses at a restaurant in Larksville in July, according to the presentment.
The presentment also says Centini provided cash to one witness, and expressed to another that Selenski was angry with the witness for prior statements to police.
Selenski’s trial on charges he strangled Michael Kerkowski and Tammy Fassett on May 3, 2002, has often been delayed due to appeals and defense attorney turnover since he was charged in May 2006. The bodies of Kerkowski and Fassett were found in a shallow grave at a Kingston Township house where Selenski lived on June 5, 2003.