SUNBURY — A Northumberland County jury found Former Shamokin City Councilman Joseph Leschinskie guilty of one misdemeanor count of unlawful use of an audio or video device in court on Wednesday.
Leschinskie avoided conviction on two other misdemeanor counts approximately an hour earlier — moments before the jury was sent to deliberate — when Woelfel granted a defense motion to dismiss one count of obstructing the administration of law or governmental function and one count of disorderly conduct. The jury then deliberated for 20 minutes before returning with a guilty verdict of one misdemeanor count of unlawful use of an audio or video device in court.
Leschinskie, 38, is accused of recording a trooper’s testimony in Northumberland County Court on Jan. 4, 2019, following a summary trial.
Leschinskie is scheduled to be sentenced by Woefel at 10:15 a.m. April 18. He faces a maximum jail sentence of two years in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Assistant District Attorney Dave Albertson in the prosecutor’s first jury trial in the county called four witnesses: county Detective Degg Stark, state Trooper Tyler Watson, of the Milton State Police Barracks, county Deputy Sheriff John Robbins and Northumberland Police Officer Rachel Shear.
On Jan. 4, 2019, Judge Paige Rosini found Leschinskie guilty of a traffic violation, which was filed by state police at Stonington relating to a June 2018 incident. Following the hearing, witnesses said Leschinskie bragged to a state trooper and two other law enforcement officials that the “Superior Court will like this” and then played the recording of Watson’s testimony from his phone.
The officers testified that Leschinskie refused to turn over the phone and resisted until several officers intervened, at which time they gained control of Leschinskie and his phone. They also testified that they only recognized Watson’s voice, and did not know whether the recording was made that day or another day.
Witnesses testified that Leschinskie sought to shake Watson’s hand following the summary trial. Watson declined, noting it a personal practice that he doesn’t shake the defendant’s hand to avoid appearances of favoritism.
Leschinskie proceeded to get “very loud” and disruptive and said he would see them in Superior Court, Shear testified.
Shear testified that she instructed Leschinskie to exit the courtroom. She said she was “shocked” to hear Watson’s voice coming from Leschinskie’s phone.
“I immediately looked at Trooper Watson and asked, ‘Did he really just do that?’” Shear testified.
Watson, who was the officer who issued the summary traffic offense, testified that he heard Leschinskie say that the “superior court will like hearing this” as they both exited the courtroom that day. Watson said he heard his own voice on a recording coming from Leschinskie’s phone.
Watson testified that he didn’t hear what was said on the recording. It was a short clip — “five seconds maybe” — and Leschinskie appeared surprised that it was playing.
Leschinskie was not placed under arrest at the time of the incident and a search warrant was not obtained. Leschinskie was detained for a brief period, according to testimony.
Stark testified that Leschinskie on that day came into his office on the third floor of the courthouse to report an alleged assault by the sheriff’s deputies. Leschinskie said his shoulder had been injured, Stark testified.
Stark said he had no idea Leschinskie was in the courthouse that day and was not aware of the incident until Leschinskie arrived.
Leschinskie was “somewhat out of breath” and appeared “very excited and very agitated” when he was explaining what happened, Stark testified.
Stark testified that he asked Leschinskie if he recorded the testimony and Leschinskie allegedly said, “Yes, but they assaulted me.”
Stark noted that each courtroom entrance has signs indicating that all electronic devices must be turned off prior to entering the courtroom. It does not say recording in the courtroom is a prosecutable offense, Stark said.
Stark did not hear the alleged recording.
Conflicts Counsel Mike O’Donnell, who represents Leschinskie, declined to comment after the hearing.
Albertson said he was “very pleased with the jury’s decision,” especially since this was his first jury trial.