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Delays aside, Yuknavich trial could start Feb. 11

March 16. 2013 11:04PM

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WILKES-BARRE – Luzerne County Assistant District Attorney Michael Melnick has called Wilkes-Barre Township Fire Chief John Paul Yuknavich a filching fireman who pilfered thousands of dollars from the department's bank account for years.

Yuknavich's attorney, Barry Dyller, countered that Melnick has not played fair, delaying the filing of court records and the turning over of alleged evidence, called discovery.

Luzerne County Judge Joseph Sklarosky Jr. on Friday scheduled Yuknavich's trial on theft-related charges to begin Feb. 11.

State police at Wyoming allege Yuknavich stole $11,865 from the fire department's bank account from 2008 to 2010 and used the department's credit card at two Sam's Clubs for $3,706 in personal purchases from 2009 to 2011.

The charges might be dismissed if Dyller convinces Sklarosky that prosecutors failed to bring Yuknavich, 49, to trial in a timely manner. Yuknavich was charged on Dec. 6, 2011, and should have been tried within one year under the speedy trial rule, Dyller said.

An earlier request by Dyller to have the charges dismissed was denied by Sklarosky in early January.

Dyller reminded the judge Friday that Yuknavich was charged nearly 14 months ago.

The trial was delayed for at least two weeks in early January when Dyller suffered from flu-like symptoms.

Another issue Sklarosky will address prior to trial is a request by Dyller to prohibit Melnick from introducing certain motives. Melnick alleges Yuknavich stole cash from the fire department because the fire chief was behind on child support payments and had personal financial debt.

Dyller believes the jury will be confused by the different motives.

None of that should be admitted, Dyller said.

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