WILKES-BARRE — Attorneys for double-homicide suspect Hugo Selenski asked a Luzerne County judge Thursday to disqualify the District Attorney’s Office from prosecuting or throw out the death penalty.
Prosecutors were chastised by attorneys Shelley Centini and Walter Rymsza who alleged prosecutors illegally obtained Selenski’s medical and psychiatric reports by subpoena from the State Correctional Institution at Mahanoy City and the county prison last August.
Centini and Rymsza state prosecutors were prohibited from obtaining Selenski’s reports that they say are “privileged and confidential” because he has never raised a mental infirmity defense.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Melnick admitted during the pre-trial hearing before Judge Fred Pierantoni III that he issued the subpoena based on a request from psychiatrist Dr. John O’Brien.
O’Brien needed Selenski’s medical and psychiatric records for review to formulate his opinion about Selenski’s mental health, Melnick said, noting O’Brien’s report would be used by prosecutors only during the death-penalty phase if Selenski is convicted of first-degree murder.
Ferentino said prior judges who had presided over Selenski’s case permitted an independent mental-health evaluation.
“We are simply trying to prepare,” Ferentino said.
But Centini said the reports give prosecutors “an unfair advantage.”
Melnick said at no time did he, First Assistant District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce and Assistant District Attorney Jarrett Ferentino review Selenski’s medical and psychiatric records.
Selenski, 39, is accused in the strangulation deaths of Tammy Fassett and Michael Jason Kerkowski, both 37, at Kerkowski’s Hunlock Township home on May 3, 2002. Their bodies were found June 5, 2003, in a shallow grave outside a Mount Olivet Road, Kingston Township, house where Selenski lived with his then-girlfriend, Christina Strom.
County detectives and state police at Wyoming allege in court records that Kerkowski was killed for money. A day after he disappeared, Selenski deposited nearly $10,000 into Strom’s bank account to cover a check she wrote for the closing on the Mount Olivet Road property she purchased in April 2002.
Centini asked that the District Attorney’s Office be disqualified from prosecuting Selenski. She is also seeking a hefty fine and payments toward Selenski’s defense be imposed because the defense team is earning an hourly wage for their work on the case.
Selenski’s trial is scheduled to begin with jury selection June 24.
Pierantoni allowed Selenski to remain in the county prison because his trial is next month. He was moved from the county facility to SCI-Mahanoy City in March, when his trial had not been scheduled.
Pierantoni said he will issue his ruling at a later date.