Ziegler re­signs after plead­ing to mis­de­meanor

The Boyertown Area Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Kait­lyn Foti kfoti@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @kait­lyn­foti on Twit­ter

NORRISTOWN Dou­glass (Mont.) Town­ship Su­per­vi­sor Fred­er­ick Ziegler said he was “worn out” as he pleaded guilty Wed­nes­day to a mis­de­meanor charge and re­signed his seat as a su­per­vi­sor.

In what Judge Gary S. Silow called a “thought­ful and hon­or­able” plea agree­ment for both sides, Ziegler, 63, pleaded guilty to a sec­ond-de­gree mis­de­meanor charge of unsworn fal­si­fi­ca­tion re­lated to a sub­poena he handed to Boyertown Po­lice Chief Barry Leather­man that matched no le­gal case in court.

“He did pos­sess a Mont­gom-

ery County sub­poena with a fictitious docket num­ber and at­tempted to serve the sub­poena with the in­tent of mis­lead­ing a public of­fi­cial,” said Penn­syl­va­nia Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Michelle L. Lau­cella.

The sub­poena was part of what Ziegler said was an investigation into ru­mors that he was in pos­ses­sion of stolen prop­erty, and un­der the um­brella of a law­suit that claimed other town­ship of­fi­cials were de­fam­ing him.

Ziegler was sen­tenced im­me­di­ately by the judge to one year of pro­ba­tion. The plea also came with the con­di­tion that Ziegler re­sign im­me­di­ately as su­per­vi­sor and never seek public of­fice again. Ziegler’s de­fense at­tor­ney Vin­cent DiFabio said that his client’s res­ig­na­tion from his elected of­fice was made on the record in court and is suf­fi­cient as a for­mal res­ig­na­tion.

“He wanted to get th­ese theft charges and con­flict of in­ter­est charges re­solved and once we had them re­solved — and we were quite con­fi­dent we were go­ing to re­solve them fa­vor­ably — once that was ac­com­plished he had planned to re­sign any­way,” DiFabio added.

After a three-day bench trial, in which Silow would have de­ter­mined Ziegler’s guilt or in­no­cence, the su­per­vi­sor took his fate into his own hands by agree­ing to the terms set forth by the pros­e­cu­tion. In ex­change for his guilty plea to the unsworn fal­si­fi­ca­tion charge, all other charges were dropped.

“One of our main goals in this case was to have him ex­on­er­ated on the charges in­volv­ing theft of town­ship prop­erty and con­flict of in­ter­est and we ac­com­plished that goal to­day by hav­ing the state drop those charges,” DiFabio said.

Ziegler agreed to an open plea, with no sen­tence at­tached, but Judge Silow asked if the de­fen­dant was pre­pared to be sen­tenced right away.

“Are you in a good mood?” Ziegler asked the judge.

“I’m al­ways in a good mood,” Silow replied.

As he sen­tenced Ziegler to pro­ba­tion, Silow spoke about how as an elected of­fi­cial, Ziegler was held to a higher stan­dard. Even so, he com­mended the su­per­vi­sor for his years of ser­vice to Dou­glass Town­ship.

“You lived your life for Dou­glass Town­ship, and the line was blurred be­tween your per­sonal and pro­fes­sional life,” Judge Silow said, call­ing the trail a sad oc­ca­sion. “Maybe things used to be dif­fer­ent, but times have changed. There is more scru­tiny of public of­fi­cials.”

Ziegler ad­dressed the court be­fore the judge sen­tenced him, re­peat­ing that the charges against him had worn him out. The trial had to be post­poned dur­ing the sec­ond day of tes­ti­mony after Ziegler was suf­fer­ing from se­vere pains in his left arm. When the trial re­sumed a week later, he said he was feel­ing “100 per­cent bet­ter.” But as he ad­dressed the court, it was clear the trial had taken a toll.

“I gave the com­mu­nity and the county 40-some years of my life, and it’s the end of the road,” Ziegler said. “It’s time to move one.

Ziegler, who re­tired in 2004 after 30 years with the town­ship’s po­lice depart­ment, the last 12 years as its chief, be­fore be­com­ing a town­ship su­per­vi­sor, was be­ing tried on charges of theft by un­law­ful tak­ing, re­ceiv­ing stolen prop­erty, forgery, tam­per­ing with public records, unsworn fal­si­fi­ca­tion to au­thor­i­ties, in­tim­i­da­tion and re­tal­i­a­tion against wit­nesses and con­flict of in­ter­est in con­nec­tion with al­leged in­ci­dents that oc­curred be­tween Au­gust 2012 and De­cem­ber 2014. With the plea, all al­le­ga­tions of theft or fraud were dis­missed, leav­ing only the charge that he know­ingly handed over a false sub­poena to ob­tain in­for­ma­tion about the theft charges against him.

Dur­ing the trial, a deputy for the Mont­gomery County Of­fice of the Prothono­tary tes­ti­fied that any­one is able to pur­chase a sub­poena, but the docket num­ber listed on the sub­poena Ziegler used did not match any ex­ist­ing case in Mont­gomery County Court.

“You were found not guilty of any of the theft charges, but you were so con­cerned, it turned over to some­thing you did do wrong,” the judge told him. “You be­came so para­noid that peo­ple were out to get you and you stepped out­side the line of what you would usu­ally do.”

The case was re­ferred to the Of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­eral since Ziegler was once em­ployed with the Mont­gomery County Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s ex­tra­di­tion unit. A spokesman for the of­fice com­mented that the pros­e­cu­tion was pleased with the re­sult of the plea.

“This was a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion for the of­fice but ul­ti­mately we be­lieved this was the ap­pro­pri­ate re­sult be­cause it re­quires the de­fen­dant to im­me­di­ately re­sign his po­si­tion and not seek public of­fice in the fu­ture,” said spokesman Jef­frey John­son. “We be­lieve this will give the town­ship the op­por­tu­nity to move for­ward.”

Fred­er­ick Ziegler

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.