Firebombing Suspect Stands Trial On Alleged Domestic Assault
WILKES-BARRE — The man accused of firebombing the Luzerne County Children and Youth headquarters is standing trial this week for an alleged domestic assault witnessed by his daughter.
Prosecutors allege Phillip Finn, 48, beat his daughter’s mother and threw her off of a porch on Jan. 31, 2017, a incident they say triggered a new Children and Youth investigation that drew Finn’s ire.
Two months after the alleged assault that again put him in the crosshairs of caseworkers, Finn used three Molotov cocktails to torch the office of a top Children and Youth administrator, according to prosecutors. He faces a federal court trial in the firebombing case in April.
Finn’s estranged girlfriend, Leah Garrah, 39, took the stand on Tuesday to describe the incident inside their Abbott Street home in Plains Twp.
“He grabbed me by the jacket. He was pulling me around. He punched me in the head and face, knocking me to the ground,” Garrah recalled. “Then he flung me off the back porch.”
The incident, which she said bloodied her nose, happened in front of their daughter, who was 8-years-old at the time, she said.
“She witnessed the entire thing unfortunately,” Garrah said.
The daughter, 10, testified on Tuesday that she saw her father throw her mother off the porch, but didn’t recall him punching her.
She said she loved her father and missed him. Recordings of their prison conversations were played for the jury to hear.
The daughter currently is in the custody of Finn’s parents.
Jurors saw photos Garrah said she took two days after the alleged assault at a friend’s house. All showed bruises and scrapes on her lower body, including a black and blue ankle.
Garrah claimed she suffered a broken nose, but no facial photos were shown.
Finn’s defense attorney Joanna Bryn Smith questioned why no photos were taken of her face.
However, Plains Twp. police officer Michael Augustine said he recalled Garrah’s nose and face were swollen when he arrived and Garrah was holding an ice pack on her face.
Finn is facing charges of simple assault and harassment in the case. The prosecution rested its case Tuesday afternoon and the defense is expected to take over this morning.
Finn and Garrah have filed dueling restraining orders against each other for years.
While the domestic dispute in question occurred on Jan. 31, 2017 and a warrant was filed, Finn wasn’t arrested until after the firebombing.
Following the firebombing, Finn was charged with three counts of terroristic threats for allegedly making threats to Children and Youth workers. Those charges were dropped when Finn was indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with the firebombing.
He remains jailed in the Luzerne County Correctional Facility.
In court filings, prosecutors have said Finn has long battled Children and Youth. They say he first lost custody of his daughter in 2008, the year she was born, and that in the years since he battled with the agency to regain and keep custody.