Charges dismissed against U.S. emergency management supervisors in obstruction case
A judge has dismissed all charges against three western Pennsylvania emergency management supervisors who had been accused of obstructing an investigation into an emergency dispatcher accused of failing to send an ambulance to the rural home of a woman who died of internal bleeding about a day later.
Senior Judge Katherine Emery wrote in dismissing the cases last week that there was “not a scintilla of evidence” that Gregory Leathers, Robert “Jeff” Rhodes and Richard Policz acted maliciously or blocked investigators from accessing information within the Greene County 911 call centre, The (Washington) Observer-Reporter reported.
The three were charged last year with tampering with public records, tampering with or fabricating evidence and obstruction. Prosecutors accused them of providing incomplete records in response to a search warrant in the July 2020 death of 54-year-old Diania Kronk.
Emergency dispatcher Leon “Lee” Price, 50, of Waynesburg, was earlier charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and other counts based on his reluctance to dispatch help without getting more assurance that Kronk would actually go to the hospital.
Emery also dismissed lesser charges against Price, including official oppression and obstruction of justice, but allowed two misdemeanor counts of involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment to proceed. His defense attorney, Timothy Ross, declined comment.
District Attorney David Russo declined comment on the dismissal of the cases against the supervisors, saying his office was considering its options. But he hailed the judge’s decision in upholding the most serious charges against Price “for not sending an ambulance to the Kronk residence after her family called for an ambulance stating she was going to die.”
“This is a milestone in the standards we hold emergency response personnel to, not only across the state of Pennsylvania but across the country,” he said.
The three supervisors were charged with blocking access to information on standard operating procedures and other documents, but the judge ruled that a policy memo binder detailing standard operating procedures that was at the centre of the prosecution’s case was “in plain view and not concealed.”
Two defense attorneys slammed the handling of the investigation and the decision to file charges.
“That case is garbage and was filed for political purposes from the get-go,” said attorney David Pollock, who represented Leathers. Rhodes’ attorney Harry Cancelmi said the case – which he said cost his client his time, money and his reputation, “should have never been filed at all.”
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