PART IV: George Ishler, a Sociopath vs. Deputy District Attorney Sean McGraw, the “Witness Whisperer” – A 3 Hour Face-Off on the Courtroom Floor

I desperately sought out spectators in the courtroom today, not wanting to know what was specifically said, but more about the reaction from the jury. As seasoned as Sean McGraw is as a trial attorney, I had heard about George Ishler from his family and close acquaintances. We all knew he was bad we just didn’t think he was capable of something like this.

One watcher told me His eyes were just black.

I think he was much more challenging than the prosecution expected. Unlike his niece, who testified yesterday, Ishler was calculating and quick. I think he caught a seasoned trial attorney off guard. The “witness whisperer” as the cops like to call him, was cross examining. Gaelic and a gentleman until you upset his moral sensibilities, Sean McGraw sweated it out for three long hours on the courtroom floor playing a chess game with a guy he likely underestimated as being so quick, cunning, pre-meditating, scheming and shrewd.

One could likely understand how a personality like that manipulated a man like Ron Bettig, and pulled his mentally disabled niece in as an accomplice.

george-ishler

I imagine McGraw got no sleep last night preparing. I imagine his office lamp was burning until the wee hours of the night. I don’t think he was preparing for a psychological chess game. I think he was more reviewing the facts to be precise. Honestly, I suspect this witness caught McGraw off guard.

Frankly, Cantorna has a level of absolute brilliance to him. Cantorna did the opening statements in this case, and they were calculated, level headed and quintencentially dry and clinical Bernie Cantorna style. For that matter, I hope he also closes on Monday, because you don’t need some hot headed Irish man with his temper flairing to go out with guns ablazing. You need someone more clinical like Cantorna, that’s what makes this process was fair.

So I have no idea what is going to happen, but its my recommendation (humbly) that Cantorna makes the closing statements before deliberation. Cantorna won’t lose his cool.

Not that McGraw lost his cool. But while McGraw was reviewing the factual intricacies of the case, the witness he was cross examining was planning on romancing a jury in the same way he romanced Bettig or the many people he manipulated or used.

Karen Muir actually summoned up the lawyer personality I didn’t think she had:

“You are a lying, manipulative woman,” were the first words said by Karen Muir to start the fifth day of the trial on Friday. “You used Dr. Bettig to get his money, his credit cards and live in his basement rent-free.” CITATION

Deborah Lux, who represents George Ishler, either fell asleep or didn’t like her client because there were very few objections and almost no fight. While Ishler used Bettig for money to buy heroin, Geier – with all her mental incapacities – was trying to buy diapers. Muir, who should know better, pointed her cross examination in that exact direction.

I want to just point out the obvious: There is a huge difference between heroin and baby diapers.

But Muir took it a step further. While questioning Geier on the stand she elicited answers from Geier that revealed that after Bettig’s murder, she had intercourse with a man for money to support her child.

  • “You wanted the jury to feel bad for you because you had to have sex for your baby, didn’t you?” Muir asked. CITATION

Please remember this witness was observably slow to family members, and in court (because her defective lawyer somehow let her testify), it was apparent to the observers – excuse me – It was transparent to the audience (and I hope the jury), noticed.

That’s my biggest fear and was my biggest concern. We can try and crucify Danelle all we want, but let’s focus on Candorna’s last words before ending his cross:

The end of the recording featured a muffled statement from Geier, which Cantorna asked her to clarify. CITATION

“Were you going to say you wished you didn’t listen to George Ishler?” Cantorna asked.

“Yes, sir,” Geier testified.

CITATION

I want to take a moment and tell you about the Geier home. There are people in that family who are salt of the earth good. There are also people who seem to been have manufactured by the devil himself. th

There is no question in my mind that those kids were beaten, and likely abused by their step father. Danelle went on to marry another abusive man. Medical records document belt marks on her first child with Tom.

She did deny allegations of abuse until she was standing trial, but the physically and sexually abused often do not speak. They call it Stolkholm Syndrome.

George Ishler was the perfect storm. The reason i wanted to know so badly the expressions of the jury members during McGraw’s three hour cross is because I got bits and pieces of the family environent where Danelle was raised.

Furthermore, like most abused individuals do, she married a man in Florida who cultivated the same environment that she had become accustomed to. It is my non-expert opinion that victims of abuse oftentimes falll prey to abusive men or women, because that contol is something they have grown accustomed to.

And make no doubt about it, just to play devil’s advocate for a second,  the same troopers who put her brother in jail for child sex abuse or rape of a 14 year old girl were the same detective troopers conducting th initial interrogation.

  • “You’re the one who called the rape report about your brother. You have no fear about making reports when you’re harmed, do you?” Muir asked.

Because rape victims are never ashamed. (Sarcasm) Because victims of rape and child abuse never have struggles? Because victims of abuse never seek out and somehow manage to find the sme twisted relationships that are familiar.

Muir has an ethical duty to zealously represent her client. I would argue to you that putting him on the stand was a risk. One spectator: HIs eyes were the blackest I have ever seen.

Muir’s crooked defense was just like Deb Lux’s. Both of them wanted to pin the blame on the other. “why didn’t she report the rape?”

“I didn’t want to deal with it. You don’t always have to make a police report if something happens,” Geier testified. CITATION

If you don’t believe me that drugs didn’t run in the family, then why did the Grandmother die of smoking Fentanyl? Ishler didn’t slip this into her food. She smoked it. I didn’t even know you could smoke that. I had to ask a physician in Atlanta about it. “Sure, thats why nobody wants to prescribe it. It’s a death sentence. Thats why firms like yours exist.” He told me drug reps used to sell it. He said the hospital standard used to be that you feel no pain, and there are medical journals and hospital policies out there that dictate now: If you are going to undergo a surgery or an invasive procedure, you will feel “a little pain.” There are terminally ill cancer patients in this day and age who can’t get the relief they need because of the opioid epidemic. So when Lux has the nerve to get up and make some senseless line of questioning inferring it was Ishler who killed Dannelle’s mother, I call BULL SHIT.

  • Geier previously testified Ishler admitted to killing his mother with fentanyl and that he “got away with it. CITATION

I wonder if what is wrong with our system is that we don’t pay our public defenders enough, because CLEARLY this was ineffective assistance of counsel. Did Ishler supply the drugs? Perhaps. Did he make his mother smoke the drugs?

Nope.

Muir directly asked Ishler if he murdered his mother and he said, “No.”

He said his mother, who lived in Rehoboth Beach, died in May 2012 because she smoked fentanyl out of a pipe. Ishler also said his father died when he was 9 years old.nCITATION

How is this a “defense”? Seriously, I think Muir does bong hits before she shows up.

 

Ishler is accused of murdering Bettig for financial gain. Ishler was listed as the executor of Bettig’s crudely written will and the prosecution said he was given the power to determine whether or not Bettig’s possessions should go to his children if they demonstrated they cared about him after he died.  CITATION

Bettig was one of those conspiracy government theorist types. A typical Penn State intellectual.

The inernet searches were damning. In the words of on spectator: it took about fifteen minutes of him talking  before I figued out he did it.

“What was the jury doing?” I asked curioulsy.

I wasn’t watching.

The Murder

  • Muir asked Ishler what happened at the top of the quarry. He said Bettig was “jumbling and rambling.” Bettig allegedly told Ishler he missed his wife and Geier didn’t love him anymore. CITATION

It was that moment Ishler disclosed Bettig jumped, acccoding to Ishler, he jumped;

  • “He turned sideways and jumped,” Ishler testified. “He knew what he was doing.”Muir then asked why he didn’t call the police to report the incident. “I should’ve, but I didn’t want anything to do with a dead body and police,” Ishler testified. CITATION

Then it was the prosecutions turn. McGraw, whom I have known for close to twenty years now, hate bullies. Give him a cup of coffee and a cause, and he turns into a terrorist.

Bernie, wno has also known McGraw for years, likely knew he was setting a fire. But it was a fire worth setting. It was McGraw’s turn. I have sat in courtrooms watching McGraw get fired up. He is the quintessential pennsylvania gentleman, he is classic State College. And it takes a lot to stir him up, but he had been perched next to Cantorna listening to this up. Cantorna knew that in his pocket, seated next to him at the prosecution table there was an Irish an atomic bomb. So when the cross examination came, McGraw had seen enough. Worn out from memorizing the facts, and sleep deprived, he stood up re-energized and went at it. It was not Cantorna style. McGraw is less strategic and more aggressive. He was fired up, sleep deprived and god forbid you give McGraw a cup of coffee.

  • Ishler again testified the statement was sarcastic because he was fed up with police and they did not believe the truthful story he originally told him, so he told them what they wanted to hear. CITATION

I know McGraw well enough that if you are sarcastic and disingenuine, McGraw will get up in your face like a Philly lawyer.

“That’s the type of sarcasm that gets you convicted of first-degree murder,” responded approaching the witness stand. It was on. McGraw doesn’t fight dirty, but he will fight. His temper, cultivated by “kung fu” and tips so the “zen temple” flared inspite of himself. He was out for blood.

  • The prosecution brought up Ishler’s past association with the police, namely that he had been a confidential informant for controlled drug buys. McGraw asked why the police would go to “great lengths” to get a false confession from him. CITATION

I reached out to McGraw but he was exhausted and unwilling to speak of it. He was happy to discuss trivialities.

  • “That’s what they do sometimes. Dead body, cops — that’s a bad situation,” Ishler testified.vThe first time Ishler used a word or phrase to describe the incident, he called it a tragedy. “His suicide was a tragedy,” Ishler said in the same tone of voice as the rest of his testimony. McGraw took umbrage with that statement.  CITATION

Umbrage is a very polite way of putting it. Outrage was likely closer to the sentiment. McGraw had heard enough. And he doesn’t litigate in a controlled fashion like Cantorna does, particularly when things get under his skin. And McGraw, like most seasoned trial attorneys reads people. So the more you say the worse it gets, you can’t win an argument when he gets in that state.

There is a strange irony to it. Because I’ve seen that ruthless jeckle and hyde personality come out in going toe to toe over criminal defendants.

But Ishler you couldn’t pay enough for McGraw to represent. That’s the funny thing about him, he worked for tone of the wealthiest lawyers in town in private practice. But he hates bullies. He’s always been like that. Whether it’s a prosecutor bullying or a Defendant he is prosecuting, if you offend McGraw’s sensibilities, it’s game over.

And there is no way to win an argument with MCGraw once he is worked up. And I also imagine he stayed up all night studying and preparing, and then drank a cup of coffee. If you feed him coffee before a court hearing, you are essentially lighting the fuse to a bomb. I think Friday morning he must have had two or three.

“Do you think what you just said convinced anyone? There was no emotion when you said it because you didn’t believe it,” McGraw said.

He wasn’t looking at the jury to read a reaction. He was looking into those penetrating black eyes of Ishler.
I’m shocked the Judge didn’t tell him to sit down to finish his line of questioning, probably six questions into it he was an Irish terrorist.
McGraw ended his cross-examination saying, “You couldn’t keep all the lies straight and they (police) eventually boxed you into a corner, so you confessed.”
Bernie ended his cross with a question. McGraw ends his with an assertion. Where every way Bernie was calculated, mathematical and cool headed, he kept the grenade in his back pocket.
I hope to god Cantorna does the closing. Not because McGraw isn’t capable but he is basically wearing a kilt and carrying a bardiche into that courtroom. Sometimes it’s better for the cooler headed to leave the jury with a lasting impression. And I pray for the good remaining folks of the Geier family, and of course the family victims of the deceased.
What is the jury thinking? It got so heated, it seemed like the whole room stopped watching the faces of the jury and were tuned into that exchange.
The sentencing Judge, upon the possibility of a conviction, should go soft on Danelle Geier. You and I know who both pushed the guy. And it took two days for him to die alone and immobile at the bottom of that cliff.
I can only hope he is in heaven with his wife. All he ever did was try to help.

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