Clyde Tonkin’s switch of legal representation compels judge to move sentencing date

Last updated: August 31. 2013 12:20AM - 1740 Views
By - elewis@timesleader.com

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WILKES-BARRE — Clyde Tonkin was convicted by a Luzerne County jury in April of sexually assaulting a now 14-year-old girl. For separate hearings Friday to determine if Tonkin is a sexually violent predator and sentencing, he wanted his own lawyer rather than the trial lawyer.

Tonkin’s trial lawyer, public defender John Sobota, was permitted to leave by Judge Joseph Sklarosky Jr. when Tonkin advised the judge he privately hired attorney John Moses “a few days ago.”

Sklarosky had no choice but to continue Tonkin’s Megan’s Law hearing and sentencing until Sept. 27 to allow Moses to familiarize himself with the case.

Assistant District Attorney Nancy Violi was prepared to proceed in requesting Tonkin be sentenced and was notified Friday morning that Tonkin had hired Moses. Tonkin is facing up to 20 years in state prison and perhaps a lifetime registration requirement if he is found as a violent sexual predator.

Tonkin went missing during his trial, at which the jury deliberated for 10 minutes before finding him guilty in absentia of statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, sexual assault and indecent assault. He cut off an ankle bracket the night before the first day of his trial and jury selection on April 15.

The 14-year-old girl testified at the trial that she trusted Tonkin and even had regarded him as a father-figure until he sexually assaulted her.

The girl said that in November 2011 she discovered she was 28 weeks pregnant. She told Tonkin of the pregnancy, she testified, and Tonkin said the two would “go away.”

Tonkin fled the area with the girl in her eighth month of pregnancy. They were captured at a motel in Ohio, and the girl was returned to her mother in Jenkins Township in February 2012. The teen gave birth to her daughter a few days later.

Tonkin was captured April 18 by U.S. marshals and Exeter police at a store in Exeter.

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