The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

November 2, 2012

DA won't dismiss Point Township rape case

SUNBURY - The defense attorney representing a Sunbury man accused of sexually assaulting his former girlfriend is asking for the immediate dismissal of all charges because the lead investigator in the case admitted to having a romantic relationship with the alleged victim.

The alleged victim wants the prosecution to go forward.

District Attorney Tony Rosini said he has no plans of honoring attorney Michael Rudinski’s request.

“Attorneys ask for stuff all the time,” Rosini said Thursday. “That doesn’t mean we agree.”

Rudinski, of Rudinski Orso and Lynch, Williamsport, said he knew “for quite some time” that Point Township police officer Wade Lytle and the alleged victim were romantically involved and was waiting to spring the information at trial.

Because the information was released, Rudinski said he is now asking Northumberland County Court to dismiss the charges because of a conflict of interest.

Allegations of violence

Lytle in March arrested Benjamin Scheller, 34, of 129 Reagan St., Sunbury. Lytle reported Scheller brandished a silver semi-automatic handgun, zip-tied the woman to a chair and sexually assaulted her.

Lytle admitted to Point Township Police Chief Josh VanKirk, who is the alleged victim’s cousin, that he and the woman were romantically involved.

VanKirk claims he conducted an investigation of the relationship and brought the matter to the district attorney’s office. He said he was told by Assistant District Attorney Ann Targonski and Rosini the case would be nearly impossible to prosecute.

On Thursday, Rosini apparently changed his opinion and has said the prosecution will proceed.

“This is a huge conflict of interest,” Rudinski said. “I will be asking for Mr. Scheller’s immediate release.”

Targonski said she heard chatter about Lytle and the woman being romantically linked, but she was on vacation and didn’t pass the information to VanKirk until he came to her office with the allegations.

VanKirk approached Point Township supervisors and asked for the firing of Lytle because of ethics violations he found during his investigation.

Supervisors on Monday voted to place Lytle on paid administrative leave and will conduct a public meeting on Monday, when it is expected Lytle will be fired.

The alleged victim in the case spoke to The Daily Item on Thursday and said she was never contacted by her cousin during the investigation about Lytle, but she was contacted by VanKirk about her allegations of sexual assault against Scheller.

The woman said she first reported the alleged crime to VanKirk and later was contacted by Lytle, who conducted the investigation. VanKirk kept the woman apprised of the investigation and she was called by VanKirk the day of Scheller’s arrest. The alleged victim said VanKirk brought her to the district attorney’s office the day Scheller was hauled in.

She also said she was never contacted by the district attorney’s office other than having several court dates postponed.

“No one from the district attorney’s office contacted me about my relationship with Wade,” she said. “We are friends and he has been there for me through all of this.”

Lytle said he will fight his possible firing and has hired an attorney.

VanKirk refused to comment Thursday, but sent a press release stating he spoke with Rosini, who told him there was no conflict for Point Township police to handle the case because the alleged victim is his cousin.

n Email comments to fscarcella@dailyitem.com.

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