Re­trial of former CASD Supt. Richard Como now set to start Jan. 16

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Michael P. Rel­la­han mrel­la­han@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @Ch­escoCourtNews on Twit­ter

WEST CH­ESTER » It now ap­pears that a new year will ap­pear on cal­en­dars be­fore former Coatesville Area School Dis­trict Su­per­in­ten­dent Richard Como’s re­trial on theft and re­lated charges gets un­der­way, ac­cord­ing to court sources.

Com­mon Pleas Se­nior Judge Thomas Gavin has no­ti­fied at­tor­neys for the pros­e­cu­tion and de­fense in the case to pre­pare for trial start­ing Jan. 16, 2018 the day af­ter the Martin Luther King Jr. Day hol­i­day, with pre­trial mat­ters and jury se­lec­tion.

Deputy Dis­trict At­tor­ney Thomas Ost-Prisco and As­sis­tant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Andrea Car­da­mone, as well as de­fense at­tor­ney Chris­tian Hoey of Paoli, rep­re­sent­ing Como, have all been at­tached for trial, mean­ing that they can tell other judges that they can­not ap­pear for other tri­als that week.

The trial had been for­mally con­tin­ued un­til Oct. 2 in July, al­though Hoey told Gavin that he an­tic­i­pated that he might not be avail­able then be­cause he had a ma­jor med­i­cal mal­prac­tice case in­volv­ing a pa­tient who died while un­der treat­ment for a neu­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tion at Paoli Hospi­tal in an­other court­room. Should the case not set­tle be­fore trial, he would not be pre­pared to try Como’s case, which is a com­plex mix of fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions and other doc­u­men­tary ev­i­dence, he told the judge.

With that in mind, there was a lim­ited amount of time avail­able for Gavin to try the case in 2017. As a se­nior judge, Gavin works only a lim­ited num­ber of weeks a year; he is now listed for crim­i­nal court for two weeks each in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber. Como’s case is ex­pected to last at least two weeks, and pos­si­bly three. Sched­ul­ing con­flicts in­volv­ing oth­ers in the case dic­tated that the trial be moved to Jan­uary.

It has been more than 2 ½ years since Como was ar­rested and charged with var­i­ous counts of theft and con­flict of in­ter­est stem­ming from a mas­sive grand jury in­ves­ti­ga­tion into his deal­ings in the Coatesville Area School Dis­trict. The charges came in the wake of a scan­dal in­volv­ing racially tinged emails and text mes­sages ex­changed be­tween Como and the dis­trict’s former ath­letic di­rec­tor that were un­cov­ered in the sum­mer of 2013 that led to his de­par­ture.

Como, 71, of West Brandy­wine is ac­cused of more than 50 counts of theft by un­law­ful tak­ing, theft by de­cep­tion, re­ceiv­ing stolen prop­erty, con­spir­acy, con­flict of in­ter­est, and re­lated Ethics Law charges. Prose­cu­tors ac­cuse him, among other of­fenses, of im­prop­erly us­ing school funds to pay for cham­pi­onship rings for the Coatesville Area Se­nior High 2012 foot­ball team.

He was charged in De­cem­ber 2014. If con­victed, he faces the pos­si­bil­ity of serv­ing prison time.

Hoey took over the case from his law part­ner, Paul Ru­bino of Paoli, who had rep­re­sented Como from the time of his ar­rest un­til the open­ing day of the trial in Jan­uary. In his open­ing state­ment, Ru­bino had been speak­ing to the jury of seven men and five women for about 10 min­utes, ex­plain­ing his con­tention that Como was in­no­cent of any and all of the theft and ethics vi­o­la­tion charges against him, when he be­came un­fo­cused and had to stop.

Gavin later de­clared a mis­trial and ex­cused the jury that had been cho­sen to hear the case.

It was later de­ter­mined that Ru­bino suf­fered an uniden­ti­fied med­i­cal con­di­tion that pro­hib­ited him from con­tin­u­ing the trial that day. He later with­drew from the case and turned it over to Hoey, a vet­eran crim­i­nal de­fense at­tor­ney.

The case against Como breaks down into four sec­tions: ac­cu­sa­tions that Como im­prop­erly ar­ranged for the hir­ing of his son Matthew Como, an ex-con­vict, to be hired as a cus­to­dial su­per­vi­sor even tough he had no ex­pe­ri­ence; the at­tempt to buy $30,000 worth of com­mem­o­ra­tive rings for the Red Raiders team, coaches, their wives, and oth­ers in­volved, in­clud­ing him­self; a $2,000 se­ries of in­flated ex­pense re­im­burse­ments for travel to events that did not take place or were out­side the realm of Como’s su­per­in­ten­dent re­spon­si­bil­i­ties; and the re­sale to the dis­trict of a $3,000 home gen­er­a­tor that did not fit Como’s needs.

Como re­mains free on bail.

Former Coatesville Area School Su­per­in­ten­dent Richard Como ar­rives for court at the Ch­ester County Jus­tice Cen­ter in this Sept. 8, 2015 file photo.


Former Coatesville Area School Dis­trict Su­per­in­ten­dent Richard Como was charged with felony theft charges Dec. 16, 2014, fol­low­ing a lengthy probe stem­ming from an ad­min­is­tra­tive tex­ting scan­dal. He is shown leav­ing dis­trict court in this file photo. Como’s re­trial is set to be­gin Jan. 16, 2018.

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