The Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board has rolled up their sleeves and they are getting their hands dirty in Centre County.
It’s about time, and it took way too long.
I have to argue that Cynthia Baldwin, a former Judge, and former member of the Penn State Board of Trustees, knew the rules of ethics and which ones she was violating during her shoddy performance as representation in the Sandusky scandal.
I also surmise that, during the media hailstorm that ensued after the Jerry Sandusky grand jury indictment hit, Frank Fina was salivating in the throes of national press coverage and harbors an obsession for self-promotion. I feel he prioritized himself above any principles of justice and his own fame above the oath he took as Attorney.
Frank Fina was little known by the Pennsylvania legal community and hardly heard of before Sandusky. No one knew he was. Sandusky provided his greedy ticket to fame. And he milked it. This case was by far the gem of his career in the Attorney General’s Office. A career prosecutor, he had never seen attention like this and the stakes were high. So high that he apparently committed some huge transgressions in the course of prosecuting the case.
These serious prosecutorial transgressions jeopardize and delegitimize Sandusky’s past convictions, as well as the convictions of the “Penn State Three”: Curley, Shultz & Spanier.
Bear in mind Curley and Shultz have served their sentences, but Spanier’s lawyers have managed to finagle a sweetheart deal: “bail pending appeal.”
There are two scales of justice: One for the poor and one for the rich. Spanier is rich and white: “special.”
The missteps are clear in this case. Cynthia Baldwin – then general counsel for Penn State – was concurrently providing counsel for Curley and Shultz during the investigating grand jury deliberations that would, ultimately, provide the Sandusky indictments. Spanier was cunning enough to retain his own counsel.
Lead Prosecutor Frank Fina saw an opportunity….. And he knew the world was watching. He quickly turned Cynthia Baldwin into a key state witness for his glamorous prosecution and massive performance as a prosecutor in the national spotlight. So ultimately the lawyer who was representing Curley and Shultz at trial, Cynthia Baldwin, was transformed into the prosecution’s star witness against them. The lawyer representing them, essentially, gave testimony throwing them under the bus. And the end result? Spanier, Shultz and Curley got SCREWED by the lawyer was supposed to represent them, and ultimately were sentenced to a fraction of the time they should have served.
Here is where Frank Fina comes in, along with Judge Barry Feudale.
Fina provides a line of questioning far beyond the scope of what Judge Feudale had previously agreed to allow in the trial. And Baldwin, of course, is compliant – quickly willing to throw her “clients” under the bus. In the course of the line of questioning by Fina, Baldwin discloses information she never should have, violating attorney-client privilege. A wealth of other ethical violations was on full display.
It was shameless.
It is also important to note that this was the biggest case that the little-known country Judge, Barry Feudale, had ever presided over during his career. Like Fina, he was astonished, flabbergasted and his ego grew in seconds as he realized the media attention this no-name country Judge was suddenly garnishing for himself. So he – like Fina – also sacrificed his oath of office and oath as an attorney, and presided over a court letting the charades of Fina and Baldwin go on. He knew better, BUT the cameras and reporters were all there and his ego got in the way of justice.
FRANK FINA, CYNTHIA BALDWIN AND PENN STATE LEADERSHIP CONSPIRED!! AND JUDGE BARRY FEUDALE LET IT HAPPEN!!
A mere days after Fina examined Baldwin on the stand, additional charges of perjury and obstruction of justice were lodged against Baldwin’s clients Curley and Shultz, and Spanier was charged for the first time.
So arguably, and yet again, these men were charged on the basis of the incriminating testimony of their own lawyer, who had represented herself – despicably – while she was supposedly “representing” them.
The future lawyers representing the PSU3 of course latched into this, and appealed the charges filed after Baldwin’s shady, misguided testimony.
In January of 2016, the perjury and obstruction charges were dismissed by an appeals court. The Judge recognizing in the opinion that the civil rights of the Penn State Three had been violated. He called Fina’s questioning of Baldwin “highly inappropriate.”
Baldwin, a Board of Trustee member, was happy to throw her clients under the bus in Fina’s line of questioning in order to protect the institution providing her six+ figure salary – Penn State.
The perjury and obstruction charges (felonies) were the most serious charges faced by the Penn State Three. And there is little contention or dispute surrounding the fact that the PSU3 had lied to the investigating grand jury, that they had not produced documents or emails conveying that they knew and covered up for Sandusky and his actions molesting children on campus.
In January of 2016, after the dismissal of the most serious charges against the PSU3, the Attorney General’s Office has an opportunity to file an appeal which would have discarded the dismissal and refiled the charges of Perjury and Obstruction (felonies). This would have added substantially longer jail time than what the PSU3 would ultimately be sentenced.
That appeal, which would have increased the penalties faced by the PSU3, was never filed. Kathleen Kane was in office and had other distractions. Namely, she was under criminal investigation by a grand jury herself.
Fina continues to hover over State College. He has his dirty hands in the Piazza case (the fraternity death case). Now in private practice, he is representating one of the fraternity brothers.
But you have to understand: Prosecuting Sandusky was one of the biggest moments in Fina’s career. Fina can’t keep himself away from the “infamy” he’s had in State College ever since.
He flippantly denies any responsibility, and fails to admit to obvious instances of prosecutorial misconduct, which were pointed out in Amelia Kittredge’s 41 page petition of discipline.
Interestingly enough, Jerry Sandusky’s appeal lawyer, Al Lindsay, issued a press release following the public petitions by the disciplinary board prosecuting Fina and Baldwin. He said he felt that the decision by the disciplinary board to prosecute Fina and Baldwin on the misconduct would have little effect on Sandusky’s appeal for a new trial, which is ongoing. I am wondering why not. I have trouble conceiving how Fina’s blatant prosecutorial misconduct does not effect the previous convictions or the ongoing appeal for a new trial. The representation is less than zealous. While I would hate to see Centre County’s name dragged through the press in a Sandusky retrial, I do believe in sixth amendment rights as well as zealous advocacy.
But it gets worse, Fina is a self-promoting ridiculous sell out, who displays multiple layers of hypocrisy extending far beyond his crooked prosecution of one of Centre County’s most heartbreaking, devastating and important cases: The Sandusky Trial.
Fina’s bad behavior extends further than the hot mess he made in State College.
The Sandusky trial is not Frank Fina’s only claim to fame. He would go on to work for Kathleen Kane after Corbett lost office, and during the infamous “Porngate” scandal, he was one of the high powered prosecutors caught sending racist, sexist and pornographic material using his government email address.
After being fired/quitting from Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s office, Fina went on to work for the now imprisoned and disgraced former Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. But the scandal brought on by Porngate (and those disgusting emails sent by Fina) would make his career there short-lived.
Kane had a vendetta against Fina that went beyond Porngate, however. Kane blamed Fina for orchestrating that “manufactured” criminal case against her. A criminal case where she was convicted, in Montgomery county, by a jury of her peers – but whom has yet to serve a day of her prison sentence.
Now it’s Fina on the hot seat for his actions prosecuting Jerry Sandusky and the PSU3. I would contend that he did sully both cases, he did it knowingly in the pursuit of fame, and that a suspension of his license is highly appropriate.
But be still my heart, the day the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board actually succeeds in protecting the public from prosecutors and lawyers who violate public trust, their oaths of office, and the rules of ethics? Well, I may need to be revived, because I will likely faint in shock.
This brings me to a second criticism of the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board: WHAT TAKES SO LONG? Clearly, the misbehavior of Fina and Baldwin, as well as Stacy Parks Miller, occurred YEARS ago. I posed this question once to Anthony Chuzniki (prosecutor on the D board), during a conversation lasting over an hour. I was dissatisfied with his answer that investigations take a long time. I was pissed off, because while the disciplinary board is “investigating,” wayward prosecutors and crooked lawyers are free to terrorize the public. I think the way I began was: “why are you government bureaucrats sitting on your fat cat asses doing nothing to protect the general public in the face of what has transpired in Centre County?” Chuzniki’s calm and polite response? “Well technically the PA disciplinary board isn’t funded by tax payers.” A technicality, he explained, because the Disciplinary Board is actually funded by annual dues paid by lawyers to maintain their bar licenses…..
So essentially, wolves guarding the henhouse!!!!
I can say I am pleased about the CRACKDOWN in Centre County. Centre County is NOTORIOUS for a legal scandal every couple years that wreaks havoc across state and national news, and burns this small community. The legal scandals and the majority of corruption in Pennsylvania all have something in common: The perpetrators are from Centre County, the scandal started in Centre County, or the root of the problem can be traced back to – you guessed it – Centre County.
Chuzniki told me another tidbit of information. While explaining why the Disciplinary Board “investigation” was dragging on for years…… He said “Centre County is “difficult” and “if it were any other county in Pennsylvania, this would be easier.” I didn’t press him for further explanation, because I already knew the answer. Centre County fancies itself as having Lion’s “PRIDE.” As such, they protect their own and give their own the benefit of the doubt, and they keep these cultural practices in place to a very dangerous degree. How do you think Sandusky openly molested children for over 30 years?
I am happy about the disciplinary board investigation into Centre County! The crackdown is FAR overdue. The locals, outside of Penn State, who reside and were born there are SICK and TIRED of their small town appearing in national news outlets due to scandal.
I hope prosecutors Kittredge and Chuzniki, as well is the Supreme Court Judges of the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board, freely and liberally hand out penalties where penalties are due. But, like I said, I have serious doubts.
Because bottom line is this: While Fina got some cheap fame as a prosecutor, he jeopardized the legitimacy of the convictions of the Penn State Three and Jerry Sandusky. They need to be held fully accountable to the highest degree allowed by law after their despicable behaviors.