Last updated: March 16. 2013 12:00AM - 4308 Views
By - elewis@timesleader.com - (570) 991-6116

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WILKES-BARRE — With no trial in the foreseeable future, Luzerne County Judge Fred Pierantoni III ordered the transfer of double homicide suspect Hugo Selenski to state prison.

Selenski, 39, has been housed at the county correctional facility since April, because his trial was scheduled for that month.

As the trial was continued due to an appeal, Selenski remained at the county jail, where Deputy Warden James Larson claimed he is taking up a valuable cell in the Restrictive Housing Unit and requiring two correctional officers to transfer and monitor his visits with his legal defense team.

It costs county taxpayers $95 a day to house Selenski, Larson said. Extra security measures involving Selenski are due to his high security status and his escape from the county jail in October 2003, Larson said.

Prosecutors said Selenski is a state inmate, convicted in Monroe County in July 2009 for the home invasion of a jewelry store owner in January 2003. He was sentenced to 32 1/2 to 65 years in state prison, making him property of the state correctional institution, prosecutors said.

Pierantoni agreed, sending Selenski back to state prison.

The hearing began with Selenski’s lead defense attorney, Shelley Centini, saying prosecutors do not have any “standing to make the request to transfer Mr. Selenski” and the court lacks “jurisdiction to entertain this petition.”

Centini has not been paid since October for her tireless effort at preparing for trial, she said, stating several times she would refuse to travel to a state prison to meet Selenski if she is not compensated. “I’m not willing to work under those conditions,” Centini said, “I cannot do my best if I have to travel to state prison. I will not do that.”

A court order appointing Centini to defend Selenski in January 2012 pays her an hourly rate of $85 without benefits with a cap of $40,000, equal to about 470 hours of work. The court order that hired Centini as a private contractor is subject to change.

Assistant District Attorney Jarrett Ferentino said Centini has visited Selenski 144 times at the county correctional facility, co-defense attorney Edward Rymsza met Selenski 17 times, and a private detective met Selenski “numerous times” for a total of 300 hours.

Selenski’s trial on the killings of Tammy Fassett and Michael Kerkowski, both 37, in May 2002 has often been delayed since he was charged with their homicides in May 2006. Their bodies were found buried in a shallow grave outside his then-home in Kingston Township on June 5, 2003.

In November Centini filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court after Pierantoni refused to throw out the homicide charges against Selenski.

Once the Supreme Court issues a ruling, prosecutors have 120 days to bring Selenski to trial. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

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