By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item
LEWISBURG — Former Hartleton Police Chief Donald “Larry” Zerbe will serve a year of probation and pay restitution of more than $5,000 in the “fines for the playground” scheme he fashioned, his sentence handed down Friday in Union County Court.
Sentencing was not expected until mid-March, but Zerbe and his attorney Hank Clarke of Pottsville told Judge Michael Hudock they were prepared to proceed after Hudock ruled against Zerbe in a motion for acquittal hearing Friday morning.
In January, Clarke filed a motion to dismiss the lone guilty verdict of theft by extortion, claiming the prosecution hadn’t met its burden under the statute to prove Zerbe was guilty of extortion.
Among Clarke’s arguments was that of 33 motorists who took the playground donation deal, only two testified in court, leaving it unknown if the other 31 were indeed extorted or if Zerbe was behind that.
Hudock contended that “reasonable assumption” from admitted evidence — including a ledger of the playground donations and citations with Post-It Notes from Zerbe instructing other officers what to do with the tickets — showed the other 31 people and Zerbe understood what was taking place.