The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

February 7, 2014

Suspected yogi killer denied bid to transfer

Attorneys: Prison wears on client

By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item

LEWISBURG — LEWISBURG — Murder suspect Joel R. Snider will remain in the State Correctional Institution at Coal Township for at least a few more months pending his scheduled trial in June.

A motion filed by defense attorneys Edward “E.J.” Rymsza and William Miele, seeking Snider’s transfer from the state prison to county jail, was denied without prejudice Friday by Judge Michael T. Hudock, allowing the defense to raise the issue again later.

Following the brief hearing, Rymsza described the difficulty he and Miele have faced conferring with Snider, 37, of St. Louis, about the homicide charges he faces for the July 2010 fatal shooting of Sudharman, 70, a well-known yoga master killed in his New Berlin home.

“It’s abhorrent,” Rymsza said of the conditions in state prison compared with a county lockup.

At state prison, Snider is held alone in a cell for 23 hours a day, is limited to one phone call per month and two-hour weekly visits with his defense attorneys while shackled. In county jail, he’s held in general population and has much more access to his attorneys.

Rymsza is pursuing a mental health defense of Snider and said the isolating conditions are affecting his “already weakened” mental state.

Sporting dark-rimmed glasses, brown curly hair, a bushy beard and moustache, Snider looked markedly different at Friday’s hearing than in prior court appearances when he was clean-shaven and bald.

Snider was moved to state prison in May following several run-ins with county inmates.

In fourth lockup since 2010

He initially was moved out of Union County Jail a few months after his 2010 arrest for allegedly assaulting another inmate and sent to Snyder County Jail, where he was held for two years.

After complaining in writing about being harassed by inmates in the Snyder County jail, he was relocated to Clinton County Jail in December 2012.

Five months later, Union County Warden Douglas Shaffer was notified that Clinton County officials wanted him removed for undisclosed reasons.

That’s when Shaffer petitioned the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to move Snider into state prison pending the outcome of his charges.

The state dropped plans last month to seek the death penalty against Snider if he’s convicted of first-degree murder.  

Rymsza said he and Miele haven’t decided whether to request a bench trial, with a judge hearing all the evidence and issuing a verdict, or jury trial.

Hudock’s ruling denying the transfer means Snider will remain in state prison until April 28, when jury selection is scheduled, or early May, if a bench trial is held.

Rymsza advised the court that if the attorneys aren’t given sufficient access to Snider, they may file a motion to postpone the trial.